Report Card Grades for Every NFL Team's Roster, OTA Edition
With free agency and the draft in our rear-view mirror and training camp on the horizon, now is a great time to pause and reflect on the NFL offseason.
Amidst organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamps, which teams have improved the most via free agency? Which drafts were the best now that we have had some time to evaluate players?
Free agency and the draft were not the only parts of the offseason either. Click ahead to find out my grades for each team as we steam ahead toward the preseason.
Key Additions: Adam Snyder, RG; Levi Brown, LT (re-signed); William Gay, CB; Calais Campbell (extension)
Key Losses: Richard Marshall, CB
Draft Picks: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame (13); Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma (80); Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi (112); Senio Kelemete, OG, Washington (151); Justin Bethel, S, Presbyterian (177); Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State (185); Nate Potter, OT, Boise State (221)
The Cardinals stormed back to finish 8-8 last season after a terrible 1-6 start. While that start ultimately doomed them, they are poised to make some noise in the NFC West this season.
Arizona will be able to do that because of an above-average offseason.
Free Agency: C
Whoever wins the quarterback competition will need better protection than the Cardinals offensive line afforded quarterbacks last season. Adam Snyder was brought in from San Francisco to help remedy that at guard.
On the surface, this may seem like a decent signing. Delving a bit deeper, we find that Snyder was the third-worst offensive guard in the league according to Pro Football Focus, who rated him particularly poorly as a pass-blocker.
William Gay was a decent signing coming over from Pittsburgh, but only after letting versatile Richard Marshall walk.
After a ho-hum free-agency period, the Cardinals had themselves a good draft.
Michael Floyd will be an immediate boost at wide receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Though Early Doucet has made some valuable contributions, the Cardinals had been missing that great second option ever since Anquan Boldin's departure.
Jamell Fleming helps patch the hole left by Marshall's departure, and Bobby Massie was one of the steals of the draft in the fourth round. Senio Kelemete and Nate Potter have a chance to develop into solid contributors or better down the line.
Even Ryan Lindley was a good pick as a developmental quarterback on a team with another developmental quarterback possibly starting.
Overall Grade: B-
If they can get good contributions from at least a couple of the rookies—particularly at receiver and along the offensive line—the Cardinals will be an improved team from 2011.
Key Additions: Lofa Tatupu, LB; Harry Douglas (extension); Vince Manuwai, OG; Asante Samuel, CB (trade)
Key Losses: Curtis Lofton, LB; Eric Weems, WR/KR
Draft Picks: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin (55); Lamar Holmes, OT, Southern Mississippi (91); Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin (157); Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy (164); Charles Mitchell, S, Mississippi State (192); Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina (249)
Make the playoffs, then lose your first game. Rinse and repeat.
That is what it has seemed like for Atlanta fans in recent years, though there is no reason to thumb a nose at making the playoffs with regularity.
Atlanta is a good mix of young guys and veterans, and the most important one is on the young side at quarterback. Matt Ryan is poised for a breakout season. Did the Falcons do enough to help him?
Free Agency: C+
Losing productive Curtis Lofton might not be as big of a blow to the Falcons as it seems, considering Mike Nolan did not believe he was a three-down linebacker. Still, he was a quality player, and Lofa Tatupu is not going to fill those shoes after a year off from football. Hopefully Akeem Dent can step up in his second season.
Losing Eric Weems might hurt the Falcons more than they care to admit, however. His kick-returning skills were most valuable to the team.
Other than those two losses, there is little to say about the Falcons in free agency.
Outside of free agency, though, the Asante Samuel trade was a good one—the Falcons now have three good-to-great cornerbacks in that secondary.
Atlanta did not pick in the first or fourth rounds this year, but that is because of a man named Julio Jones. Though they paid a steep price for him last year, his promising rookie year leaves little doubt it was worth it. This weighs into their draft grade.
Their biggest need was along the offensive line. While Peter Konz might be viewed as the center of the future, Joe Hawley should actually take that mantle from 35-year-old Todd McClure at some point, perhaps this season. That moves Konz over to guard, which gives Atlanta a nice combo in the middle of that line.
The rest of its draft was not bad, but not necessarily inspiring.
Overall Grade: C+
Thankfully the Falcons were in a good position heading into the offseason, but they could have done a bit more to help get over the playoff hump. Other teams tried to get better and succeeded, in some cases, leaving me to wonder if Atlanta is in for another one-and-done playoff appearance.
Key Additions: Matt Birk, C (re-sign); Jameel McClain, LB; Brendon Ayanbadejo, LB; Lardarius Webb, CB (extension)
Key Losses: Jarret Johnson, OLB; Ben Grubbs, OG; Cory Redding, DT; Haruki Nakamura, S
Draft Picks: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama (35); Kelechi Osemele, T, Iowa State (60); Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple (84); Gino Gradkowski, C, Delaware (98); Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State (130); Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly (169); Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami (198); Deangelo Tyson, DT, Georgia (236)
For a brief glimmer of a moment, the Ravens were going to the Super Bowl. Then Sterling Moore knocked the ball from Lee Evans' grasp, nullifying a game-winning touchdown. The Ravens would ultimately lose the game after a missed Billy Cundiff field goal to force overtime.
Can they get there again and finally make it back to the Super Bowl after a decade? It all begins with a good offseason.
Free Agency: D+
Unfortunately, the road to the Super Bowl was not made any easier by Baltimore's free-agency period. Not only were the Ravens relatively quiet on the open market—at least as far as impact names—but they lost several key players.
Namely, Jarret Johnson's departure left a gaping hole at outside linebacker once Terrell Suggs injured himself while allegedly playing basketball. Losing Ben Grubbs and Cory Redding also hurt.
Thankfully for them, the Ravens made up for their free-agency woes with a good draft.
Drafting Courtney Upshaw made it seem as though they went to a fortune teller—the rookie will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact as Suggs' replacement. Similar things can be said about the selection of Osemele, who will compete with Jah Reid to fill the void left by Grubbs' departure.
Asa Jackson and Tommy Streeter were nice late-round picks as well, with Streeter perhaps starting out as the No. 3 receiver this season.
Overall Grade: C+
Much like the Falcons, the Ravens did not do much to improve their squad this offseason. Locking up Lardarius Webb was a great move for their future, though, and a solid draft was able to salvage a relatively poor free-agency period. I am not sure they did enough to keep pace with other AFC teams.
Key Additions: Mario Williams, DE; Mark Anderson, DE; Stevie Johnson (re-signed); Fred Jackson (extension)
Key Losses: Demetress Bell, OT; Roscoe Parrish, WR
Draft Picks: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (10); Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia (41); T.J. Graham, WR, N.C. State (69); Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State (105); Ron Brooks, CB, LSU (124); Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State (144); Tank Carder, LB, TCU (147); Mark Asper, OG, Oregon (178); John Potter, K, Western Michigan (251)
Though they wound up tied with the Dolphins in the AFC East cellar, the Bills showed some promise last season. With the right guidance, this squad might compete for a playoff spot in 2012, perhaps vying for this coming season's worst-to-first crown were it not for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots standing in their way.
Free Agency: A+
Step 1: Nail free agency. Check.
The Bills landed the offseason's biggest defensive prize when they signed Mario Williams. They impressed him so much that he did not even visit another team, though hopefully Stockholm syndrome was not involved.
Williams will be a major upgrade to a defensive line that needed a big boost, but they did not stop there.
Mark Anderson came over from the hated Patriots to start on the other side of Williams, allowing Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus to move inside, where they can be more effective.
The Bills also re-signed Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson, two vital pieces to their offense.
Step 2: Draft well. Check.
Not only did the Bills get a premier cornerback in Stephon Gilmore—who will vie for a starting spot along with Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin—but they also got great value on the offensive line in Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders. Glenn should come in and challenge for a starting spot right away, and it would not be a surprise if Sanders worked his way into the mix as well.
Do not sleep on T.J. Graham as a big contributor either. The speedster will have plenty of opportunity as he competes with Donald Jones, David Nelson and Naaman Roosevelt.
Overall Grade: A
There is little the Bills could have done better this offseason save upgrade at quarterback, which was just not feasible considering the market and their options during the draft. Ryan Fitzpatrick should remain serviceable in the near future, and as long as Buffalo sports a good running game and defense, he should be good enough to win games.
Key Additions: Mike Tolbert, RB; Haruki Nakamura, S; Bruce Campbell, OG (trade)
Key Losses: Dan Connor, LB; Legedu Naanee, WR; Geoff Schwartz, OG; Travelle Wharton, OG; Mike Goodson (trade)
Draft Picks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (9); Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State (40); Frank Alexander, OLB, Oklahoma (103); Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas (104); Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina (143); Brad Nortman, P, Wisconsin (207); D.J. Campbell, S, California (216)
Superman came to the rescue last season after the Panthers hit rock bottom in 2010, but Cam Newton cannot do it all alone. As spectacular as his rookie season was, Carolina wound up with just a 6-10 record.
The Panthers needed to take another step forward in the offseason.
Free Agency: C-
Unfortunately, the Panthers did not have much to spend this offseason after signing DeAngelo Williams and Charles Johnson to massive contracts last offseason, among other players.
While the Mike Tolbert signing seems nice in a vacuum, the reality is Carolina did not need to add to a crowded backfield in free agency. Tolbert will be valuable as a blocker and goal-line back—perhaps catching a few passes out of the backfield as well—but they could have focused elsewhere.
After all, they had Mike Goodson before trading him away for Bruce Campbell, sadly not of the Evil Dead variety.
What they lacked in free agency, they made up for in the draft.
Luke Kuechly was one of those picks draftniks did not see coming—particularly with Jon Beason coming back from injury in Carolina—but he was one of the safest picks in the draft and a sure-fire starter for years to come, even if that means playing on the outside.
Silatolu should come in and start immediately, which will in turn help DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Joe Adams was one of those under-the-radar picks that should pay dividends for the Panthers, even if he does not contribute right away.
Overall Grade: B-
Carolina's biggest improvement may come with the return of veterans coming off injury. If Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and Jeff Otah can return to form, it will be as though they signed three great free agents. Of course, that is a big "if" considering Otah and Davis have had injury issues for years.
Key Additions: Brandon Marshall, WR (trade); Jason Campbell, QB; Michael Bush, RB; Eric Weems, WR/KR; Blake Costanzo, LB; Tim Jennings, CB (extension)
Key Losses: Zack Bowman, CB; Brandon Meriweather, S
Draft Picks: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State (19); Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina (45); Brandon Hardin, S, Oregon State (79); Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple (111); Isaiah Frey, CB, Nevada (184); Greg McCoy, CB, TCU (220)
If the Bears want to get to the next level, however, they must continue to get better through the offseason.
Free Agency: B
It seems the Bears learned the value of having a quality backup quarterback after last season's post-Cutler debacle. Jason Campbell is finally in a place where he will not be the starter by default, and the Bears will have someone with some competency backing up the starter.
This grade might be higher if the Bears were not mired in a standoff with their starting running back. There are several reasons why they brought in Michael Bush, and leverage is one of them. Can Bush carry the load if Matt Forte decides to hold out? Look at Bush's numbers from last season, and you will see a noticeable decline after he took over for Darren McFadden.
Aside from the big names, Eric Weems and Blake Costanzo were nice additions, mainly for their special-teams contributions. Weems will help take some pressure off Devin Hester as a kick returner.
This was a solid draft for the Bears, who needed help at a few positions.
Defensive end was one of those positions, as Israel Idonije was not exactly Julius Peppers. Shea McClellin should step in and start right away unless he struggles to adjust to the pros.
Alshon Jeffery was one of the draft's more polarizing players, but the Bears got him at a great value in the second round. If he can prove to stay motivated, he will be a steal of a draft pick for years to come.
Overall Grade: B
Chicago had a positive offseason outside the Forte brouhaha, which it must resolve soon or risk a Forte holdout. Combined with Cutler's return, their additions will make Chicago a force to be reckoned with in the NFC North.
Key Additions: Reggie Nelson, S (re-signed); BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB; Travelle Wharton, OG; Adam Jones, CB (re-signed)
Key Losses: Frostee Rucker, DT; Andre Caldwell, WR; Nate Livings, G
Draft Picks: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (17); Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin (27); Devon Still, DT, Penn State (53); Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers (83); Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson (93); Orson Charles, TE, Georgia (116); Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa (156); Marvin Jones, WR, California (166); George Iloka, S, Boise State (167); Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State (191)
One of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season was Cincinnati's improbable run to the playoffs while playing in the gauntlet that is the AFC North. Andy Dalton surprised many pundits with a quietly good season, though he might not have been quite so successful without fellow rookie A.J. Green.
Can they build on their success?
Free Agency: B
While the Bengals were able to retain some good defensive pieces in Reggie Nelson and Adam Jones, they did not do much else in free agency.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was their biggest prize, but he may find tougher sledding in Cincinnati, where there is a bit of a drop-off at quarterback. That is no slight against Dalton, who had a fine rookie season, but he is no Tom Brady.
Green-Ellis has a career average of 4.0 yards per carry (YPC) and just one 1,000-yard season, though Bill Belichick's capriciousness with running backs are largely to blame. I am not sure he will blossom as the lead back. The Law Firm may not be an exciting addition, but the Bengals filled a position of need by signing him.
If you asked me what a draftnik's dream 2012 draft would look like, Cincinnati's haul would be darn close.
The Bengals nailed just about every pick they made.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Mohamed Sanu, George Iloka and Marvin Jones will all vie for starting jobs. Whether that is a good thing in the immediate future or not is debatable—a lack of experience at so many starting positions might not be ideal—but they got great talent at great values and positions of need throughout the draft.
This will be one of the more interesting drafts to evaluate in three years with the benefit of hindsight. Were the draftniks spot-on?
Overall Grade: A-
Even though their free agency period was unspectacular, the Bengals knocked the draft out of the park. If it pans out, Cincinnati is in for success over the long haul.
Key Signings: Dimitri Patterson, DT (re-signed)
Key Losses: Mike Adams, S; Artis Hicks, OL
Draft Picks: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (3); Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (22); Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California (37); John Hughes, DT, Cincinnati (87); Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami (100); James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada (120); Ryan Miller, OT, Colorado (160); Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas (204); Billy Winn, DT, Boise State (205); Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona (245); Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama (247)
The Dawg Pound has not had much to cheer about since Cleveland's not-so-triumphant return to the NFL. Last season was no different, as the Browns floundered their way to a 4-12 record.
They did have some young talent on that roster, however. There were clear needs heading into this offseason—how did they do addressing them?
Free Agency: C-
There is really little to see here. The Browns did little of note, though they did not really lose anyone of note either, save perhaps Mike Adams, a quietly solid player.
One of the more polarizing drafts came from Tom Heckert and the Browns.
Trent Richardson is an elite talent at running back—despite what some bitter Hall of Famers might have you believe—but did the Browns really need to move up one spot to get him? They felt strongly enough about him that they fell for Minnesota's bluff and traded away a fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick to ensure the selection.
There are questions about the merit of drafting a running back so high nowadays, so the pick was not a slam dunk.
The real controversy began when Cleveland drafted 28-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick. They maintain that Kendall Wright was their pick all along until the Titans took him, but Heckert seemed to be high on Weeden well before the draft.
Overall Grade: C+
The Browns are not much closer to the playoffs than they were a year ago. This is a long-term rebuilding process, though it seems like they have been rebuilding for years now.
Key Additions: Brandon Carr, CB; Dan Connor, LB; Kyle Orton, QB
Key Losses: Martellus Bennett, TE
Draft Picks: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (6); Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State (81); Kyle Wilber, OLB, Wake Forest (113); Matt Johnson, S, Eastern Washington (135); Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech (152); James Hanna, TE, Oklahoma (186); Caleb McSurdy, LB, Montana (222)
Another season of high hopes ended in disappointment once more for the Cowboys, who were shut out of the playoffs. To add insult to injury, the Giants—the team they could not beat to make the playoffs—won the Super Bowl.
Of course, Dallas was dealt a major blow on the eve of free agency when the NFL hit it with a $10 million cap penalty for money shenanigans during the uncapped seasons.
That did not seem to deter Jerry Jones in free agency, however.
Free Agency: B
Dallas needed an upgrade in the secondary, and it got one in a big way with Brandon Carr.
The talented cornerback was the best in the free-agency class and should provide a big boost for Rob Ryan and that defense.
Dan Connor was another nice pickup for that defense.
What better way to bolster your secondary than to take the best cornerback in the draft? The Cowboys did just that by taking Morris Claiborne, though not without paying for it. They had to move up in the draft to get him, losing their second-round draft pick in the process.
Outside the Claiborne pick, there was not much of note for the Cowboys save that rookie Danny Coale will be competing for that No. 3 receiver role.
Overall Grade: B
The Cowboys will be competitive in the NFC East once again, largely in part to a good offseason. Hopefully Tony Romo can minimize the mistakes.
Key Additions: Peyton Manning, QB; Jacob Tamme, TE; Joel Dreessen, TE; Mike Adams, S
Key Losses: Tim Tebow, QB (trade); Eddie Royal, WR
Draft Picks: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati (36); Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State (57); Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State (67); Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State (101); Philip Blake, C, Baylor (108); Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee (137); Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky (188)
It is hard to argue the Broncos have not had one of the better offseasons amongst NFL teams. John Elway put his stamp on this team in a big way after an oddly successful season.
Free Agency: A
Whatever your feelings are about his health and age, Peyton Manning was the most coveted free agent of the offseason, and Denver nabbed him.
Indeed, Peyton's neck is a major concern, and he is no spring chicken at 36 years of age. That the Broncos gave him a huge, five-year deal raised some eyebrows, but they have an escape clause should his injury issues crop again this year.
Aside from Manning, the Broncos signed two good tight ends in Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. Mike Adams should help shore up that secondary as well.
They may have won free agency, but the draft haul left something to be desired for the Broncos. Brock Osweiler in the second round was not a terribly good pick, though the developmental quarterback could scarcely be disappointed about sitting behind a legend.
Perhaps their best pick was Philip Blake, who should supplant incumbent J.D. Walton at center. Malik Jackson was a nice value that late as well.
Overall Grade: B
All in all, the Broncos are in a great position to win in the short term, assuming Manning can stay healthy. The AFC West has suddenly turned into a group of death.
Key Additions: Jacob Lacey, CB; Calvin Johnson, WR (extension)
Key Losses: Eric Wright, CB
Draft Picks: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa (23); Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (54); Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette (85); Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma (125); Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Temple (138); Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion (148); Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico State (196); Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma (223)
The days of perennial relevancy have finally returned to Detroit. Can they keep it going?
Free Agency: C+
The best thing the Lions did during free agency was give Megatron a monster contract. That earns them that plus.
There was nothing spectacular about Detroit's draft, but it built solid depth. Riley Reiff might vie for a starting spot, though he is slated to back up Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus right now. Broyles is yet another weapon for Matthew Stafford.
Overall Grade: B
A good draft means positive momentum for the Lions, who will be fighting for their playoff lives this year in a strong NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Key Signings: Phillip Merling, DE; Jeff Saturday, C; Anthony Hargrove, DE
Key Losses: Scott Wells, C
Draft Picks: Nick Perry, DE, USC (28); Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State (51); Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt (62); Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa (132); Jerron McMillian, S, Maine (133); Terrell Manning, OLB, NC State (163); Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State (241); B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga (243)
One of last season's Super Bowl favorites fell far short of that expectation despite nearly going undefeated last season.
The Packers continued their momentum from a Super Bowl victory a year before, running out to 13 victories before the Kansas City Chiefs, of all teams, stopped them. Unfortunately, a 15-1 record masked deficiencies in their defense that were exposed in the playoffs.
Offensively, Green Bay is as good as ever, but fixing that defense was priority No. 1 this offseason.
Free Agency: B
Ted Thompson has never been a big player in the free-agent market, choosing to operate almost exclusively out of the draft over the past several seasons.
He broke away from his norm a bit this offseason, signing Jeff Saturday to replace the departed Scott Wells. He also picked up Phillip Merling and Anthony Hargrove to bolster a poor defensive line.
The Packers again did not do much in free agency, but it is hard to argue with their results from this mode of operation in recent years.
Fixing that defense was clearly a priority going into the draft for the Packers.
After nabbing highly athletic Nick Perry at the end of the first round—who should start opposite Clay Matthews and help wreak havoc for opposing quarterbacks—Green Bay stole Jerel Worthy, who should help shore up the interior of that 3-4 defensive front.
Casey Hayward was a nice pickup to help that defense as well.
Overall Grade: B
The Packers should be Super Bowl favorites once again after shoring up their defense. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, they should be playing in New Orleans this February.
Key Signings: Arian Foster, RB (extension); Justin Forsett, RB
Key Losses: Mario Williams, DE; DeMeco Ryans, LB (trade); Eric Winston, OT; Joel Dreessen, TE; Jason Allen, CB; Lawrence Vickers, FB; Jacoby Jones, WR; Neil Rackers, K
Draft Picks: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois (26); DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State (68); Brandon Brooks, OG, Miami (OH) (76); Ben Jones, C, Georgia (99); Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State (121); Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska (126); Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M (161); Nick Mondek, T, Purdue (195)
One of last year's dark horses to make the Super Bowl fell short of that due to injuries. They are a young team, however, and could make another run if they can stay healthy.
Or can they?
Free Agency: D
That is what it seems like when looking back at free agency for Houston. Mario Williams was the big name to take his talents elsewhere, but the Texans sure let plenty of players walk, though some of that was their own doing, whether by trade or cut.
There would not be a major issue had they signed anyone of significance. However, their marquee signing of the offseason was third-down back Justin Forsett.
Unfortunately, things did not get much better for the Texans in the draft. Whitney Mercilus might have been drafted to replace Mario Williams, but he was probably the biggest question mark of the draft at pass-rusher, at least in the first round. He had one great year of production in college, which the Texans hope was not a fluke.
DeVier Posey was a bit of a surprise that early, considering many experts had him ranked much lower.
Overall Grade: C-
The Texans had an opportunity to build on their success from last season, but they took a step back this offseason from a personnel standpoint. The good news is that they have a young core that will continue to improve—particularly on defense.
Hopefully for the Texans, key players like Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will stay healthy to go along with that improvement.
Key Signings: Reggie Wayne (re-signed); Deji Karim, RB
Key Losses: Jeff Saturday, C; Joseph Addai, RB; Jacob Lacey, CB; Peyton Manning, QB; Jacob Tamme, TE; Philip Wheeler, LB
Draft Picks: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (1); Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (34); Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson (64); T.Y. Hilton, WR, FIU (92); Josh Chapman, DT, Alabama (136); Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State (170); LaVon Brazill, WR, Ohio (206); Justin Anderson, OT, Georgia (208); Tim Fugger, DE, Vanderbilt (214); Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois (253)
After Peyton Manning's neck injury, the Indianapolis Colts suffered through a 2-14 season. Things can only go up from here, right?
Free Agency: C-
Anytime you lose a Hall of Fame quarterback is a bad time, even if he was coming off an injury. The Colts parted ways amicably in the end, paving the way for Andrew Luck to lead this team going forward.
The Colts are in a rebuilding phase, meaning they were going to purge the roster. It was ugly.
There is a reason why the Colts had the top pick in the draft, but now they have Andrew Luck to guide them for the next 15 years or so.
They did him a big favor by drafting a couple of good tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. T.Y. Hilton is a dangerous receiver who could help take the top off defenses if he can stay healthy.
One of the more underrated draft picks was Josh Chapman, who fell due to medical concerns. If healthy, he could be a starter on that defensive line sooner than later.
Overall Grade: B-
This is year one of a multiyear rebuilding process. So far, so good.
Key Signings: Laurent Robinson, WR; Jeremy Mincey, DE (re-signed); Rashean Mathis, CB (re-signed); Chad Henne, QB; Aaron Ross, CB
Key Losses: None
Draft Picks: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (5); Andre Branch, DE, Clemson (38); Bryan Anger, P, California (70); Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada (142); Mike Harris, CB, Florida State (176); Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland (228)
Last season was a forgettable one for the Jaguars.
Will new owner Shahid Khan be treated with a better product on the field?
Free Agency: C+
Jacksonville did a good job of retaining its free agents, but that is about it.
Here are the numbers from Laurent Robinson's breakout season: 54 receptions, 858 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While the touchdown total was nice, he had Tony Romo throwing him the ball and—for the most part—Miles Austin and Dez Bryant taking much of the defensive attention away, though some of Robinson's best work came when one of those two was out.
While he is an improvement over the Mike Thomas-Jason Hill tandem of last season, Robinson is a journeyman with one good season under his belt. The Jaguars could have done better.
Aside from keeping some of their key players like Jeremy Mincey and Rashean Mathis, the Jaguars signed Chad Henne to back up Blaine Gabbert and possibly push him to start. When the words "Chad Henne" and "quarterback competition" are said in the same breath, trouble is brewing at the position.
Then there is the whole contract dust-up with league-leading rusher Maurice Jones-Drew. He did not attend the first day of mandatory minicamp, which is a sign of worse things to come in this dispute.
Aaron Ross was a nice pickup, at least.
Disclaimer: Drafting a punter with a third-round pick—an early one at that—is grounds for immediate failure.
Bryan Anger could wind up being the best punter in the history of the NFL, for all I know, and perhaps then he will have been worth it. Looking at the pick today, however, it is easy to see they should have waited a while longer. It is understandable that Gene Smith did not want to risk losing him, but there are just some things that are inexcusable from an analysis standpoint.
The Jaguars are not coming off a Super Bowl victory or even a playoff appearance. Taking Anger with the 70th overall pick was simply a luxury they should have waited on.
Aside from the anger over Anger, moving up to take Justin Blackmon is proving to be an unwise decision. While there was no way the Jaguars could have known he would be arrested on suspicion of aggravated DUI, he already had one on his record. More to the point, Blackmon was not necessarily the best receiver in the draft.
Jacksonville's best draft pick was Andre Branch. The second-round defensive end should push to start opposite Jeremy Mincey on a solid defensive unit. Unfortunately, one good draft pick does little to improve their grade here.
Overall Grade: D
The Jaguars are young at key positions, and they still have a highly underrated defense. These are reasons why they might be better in 2012.
Their offseason is not one of those reasons.
Kansas City Chiefs
Key Signings: Eric Winston, OT; Peyton Hillis, RB; Stanford Routt, CB; Romeo Crennel, HC (retained interim)
Key Losses: Brandon Carr, CB
Draft Picks: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis (11); Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois (44); Donald Stephenson, OT, Oklahoma (74); Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State (107); DeQuan Menzie, CB, Alabama (146); Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M (182); Jerome Long, DT, San Diego State (218); Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan (238)
Much like the Cardinals, the Chiefs came back from a horrendous start—largely thanks to major injuries—and finished the season with a 7-9 record, one game back from division-winning Denver.
It will be like they signed several marquee free agents now that Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel and Tony Moeaki are back from season-ending injuries.
Free Agency: A-
Kudos are in order for the Chiefs in free agency. They may have lost a great cornerback in Brandon Carr, but they made up for it by signing Stanford Routt to a much cheaper contract.
Eric Winston will be a major boon to an offensive line in need of a good right tackle. His strong suit might be rush-blocking, but that is just music to Jamaal Charles' ears.
This is a bit of a boom-or-bust draft for the Chiefs.
Scott Pioli took a chance by drafting combine warrior Dontari Poe, whose film did not indicate he was quite worth the 11th overall pick. They needed an upgrade in the middle of that defensive line, so the pick makes sense from that standpoint, but they passed on safer prospects Fletcher Cox—who would be more of a 3-4 defensive end—and Michael Brockers in the process.
Jeff Allen was also a bit of a reach in the second round for the Chiefs.
Overall Grade: B
This is a young squad that has many holdovers from its 2010 playoff season. A solid offseason has boosted the Chiefs' chances of returning.
Key Signings: Richard Marshall, CB/S; Paul Soliai (re-signed); David Garrard, QB; Legedu Naanee, WR; Gary Guyton, LB; Artis Hicks, OL; Joe Philbin, HC
Key Losses: Brandon Marshall, WR (trade); Kendall Langford, DT/DE; Phillip Merling, DE; Chad Henne, QB; Vernon Carey, OL
Draft Picks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M (8); Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (42); Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami (FL) (72); Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri (78); Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL) (97); Josh Kaddu, OLB/DE, Oregon (155); B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State (183); Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas (215); Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada (227)
That is the word that best describes Miami's offseason. Heck, that aptly describes Miami's past decade. It helps explain why Miami's season-ticket subscriptions have dwindled by half over that span, down to about 30,000.
Who can blame fans? After a decade of mediocrity or worse and 13 years into the post-Dan Marino era, the Dolphins are still searching for a franchise quarterback and stability all around.
Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins have been panned for almost every move they have made this offseason, including their future appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks.
Is it all warranted?
Free Agency: C-
Great teams seem to thrive utilizing the "draft and develop" mode of operation. Just look at the Green Bay Packers, who have done little in free agency over the years—particularly on offense—yet boast one of the league's best teams.
The Dolphins might have done little in free agency, but they do not have the track record to call that a positive thing, even if their lack of activity was by design.
They whiffed on Peyton Manning and then lowballed Matt Flynn—though it seems if they really wanted Flynn, they could have had him—and wound up with David Garrard as their big quarterback signing, a 34-year-old quarterback coming back after a season-long sabbatical while recovering from back surgery.
Other than the quarterback debacle, they made some quality, low-key signings. Richard Marshall will be a boon to the secondary, and Artis Hicks will provide quality depth on the offensive line while vying for a starting job on the right side.
And, yes, the Dolphins signed Chad Ochocinco to a low-risk deal, but that did not move the needle as far as this assessment goes. The Dolphins do not exactly have Green Bay's receiving corps, and they can cut him easily if he is a problem or does not produce.
This may have come as a surprise to some of Jeff Ireland's detractors, but the Dolphins had a solid draft highlighted by great value at several picks.
Though taking Tannehill eighth overall is seen as a reach, can you really blame Miami? He was Ireland's man, and it could not risk losing him by trading down. He compares favorably to fellow eighth-overall pick Jake Locker from 2011, and he is the first quarterback the Dolphins have taken in the first round since Dan Marino back in 1983.
Jonathan Martin was a great value for Miami with its second-round pick. His finesse style of play will fit in nicely with Miami's new zone-blocking scheme (ZBS), and he will be a massive upgrade over Marc Colombo despite not having played right tackle since high school.
The real steal of the draft came in the fourth round, where Miami was able to land Lamar Miller. The talented running back fell because of medical and intelligence concerns, but he is a first-round talent with game-breaking talent when healthy.
Overall Grade: C
The offseason has done little to stem the tide of criticism from around the league. It has become increasingly apparent that Stephen Ross is dictating big decisions, namely the Hard Knocks appearance and unsurprising Chad Ochocinco signing.
Hopefully that is the extent of Ross' meddling—agreeing to go on HBO's show was more about PR than anything.
This is a make-or-break year for Jeff Ireland. If his moves and draft picks pan out—at least to a certain degree, considering the offense is being rebuilt—he could buy himself one more season. If not, well, it will not be pretty for him in Miami.
Key Signings: Jerome Simpson, WR; Zack Bowman, CB; Geoff Schwartz, OL; John Carlson, TE; Chris Carr, CB
Key Losses: Steve Hutchinson, OG; Jim Kleinsasser, FB; Anthony Herrera, OG
Draft Picks: Matt Kalil, OT, USC (4); Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame (29); Josh Robinson, CB, UCF (66); Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas (118); Rhett Ellison, FB, USC (128); Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas (134); Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame (139); Blair Walsh, K, Georgia (175); Audie Cole, LB, NC State (210); Trevor Guyton, DE, California (219)
An awful season ended in woe as Adrian Peterson went down with a nasty injury on Christmas Eve. Much like Peterson would need to during the offseason, the Vikings needed to rehab their team this offseason.
How did they do?
Free Agency: B
The Vikings did not make a major splash in free agency, but they did make several solid additions to their roster.
Zack Bowman and Chris Carr should bolster their secondary, though neither is likely to vie for a starting gig. After letting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera go, the Vikings signed Geoff Schwartz away from the Panthers.
Perhaps their biggest signing will be sitting out the first three games this season because of a suspension. Jerome Simpson was disciplined for his legal troubles, but he has been burning up Vikings practices thus far and should shore up the No. 2 receiver spot for Minnesota.
Rick Spielman did well to extort fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round draft picks from the Browns, picking up his man Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick anyway. The mammoth left tackle will anchor the left side of the line for Christian Ponder and the Vikings for years to come.
Harrison Smith was more of a need pick for Minnesota—their safeties left something to be desired—but moving back into the first round to get him may have been unnecessary, thus nullifying some of the positives gained from the Trent Richardson trade.
Overall, the draft was a positive one for Spielman and the Vikings as they addressed needs admirably.
Overall Grade: B
Over a year removed from the brief Brett Favre era, this team has youth and upside on its side. They have built through the draft and made some savvy free-agent moves.
Were they not playing in the loaded NFC North, they might be a dark horse for a playoff spot. As it stands, the three other teams might be playoff-bound themselves.
New England Patriots
Key Additions: Brandon Lloyd, WR; Rob Gronkowski (extension); Trevor Scott, DL; Daniel Fells, TE; Joseph Addai, RB; Matthew Slater, WR (re-signed)
Key Losses: Chad Ochocinco, WR; Gary Guyton, LB; Mark Anderson, DE
Draft Picks: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse (21); Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama (25); Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois (48); Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas (90); Nathan Ebner, S, Ohio State (197); Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska (224); Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern (235)
After yet another Super Bowl appearance, it appears the New England Patriots are nowhere near slowing down. The offense is perennially potent thanks to Tom Brady, and the defense is young and improving.
Could Bill Belichick reload for another run at a title?
Free Agency: B+
It seems like playing for New England is palatable for free agents, no? The Patriots lost little and gained a lot this offseason, particularly at wide receiver.
Brandon Lloyd will be reunited with the man responsible for his breakout, Josh McDaniels, and will do so on an incredibly dangerous offense. He will finally provide an outside threat, one they have been missing since Randy Moss flamed out in New England.
Extending Rob Gronkowski and re-signing Matthew Slater are just examples of savvy roster moves that have become the norm in New England. Unfortunately, Wes Welker is falling prey to that savviness, as the Patriots do not seem inclined to give the diminutive Pro Bowler a giant deal.
This draft was an unorthodox one for Belichick—at least when viewed through the lens of recent history—as the Patriots moved up twice in the first round rather than trade back for future picks.
It is difficult to argue with the results, particularly with Chandler Jones, whom Mike Mayock called the best defensive player in the draft. He will bolster the defensive line as a pass-rusher after Mark Anderson's departure while team sack-leader Andre Carter ticks off another year in age at 33.
What is a NFL draft without a head-scratcher from Belichick, though? Tavon Wilson was not on anyone's radar except Belichick's, and he took the safety in the second round. That was one of the more regrettable picks in the draft.
Overall Grade: B
It seems the Patriots have only improved after another Super Bowl appearance, a scary thought for the rest of the league if they can stay healthy.
New Orleans Saints
Key Signings: Marques Colston, WR (re-signed); Curtis Lofton, LB; David Hawthorne, LB; Brodrick Bunkley, DT; Steve Spagnuolo, DC
Key Losses: Carl Nicks, OG; Robert Meachem, WR; Tracy Porter, DB
Draft Picks: Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina (89); Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin (122); Corey White, S, Samford (162), Andrew Tiller, OG, Syracuse (179); Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska (234)
The Saints win the award for most headlines this offseason, as the bounty scandal and the Drew Brees impasse have put a hurting on New Orleans.
With head coach Sean Payton suspended for the season and general manager Mickey Loomis suspended for eight games, the Saints needed positive news elsewhere if they were to weather the offseason storm.
Free Agency: B-
Loomis was a sage when he brought in David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton at linebacker, now that Jonathan Vilma is suspended for the season. It remains to be seen whether Vilma's lawsuit has legs, but the Saints have themselves two starters in the meantime.
The Saints knew they could not keep Marques Colston, Drew Brees, Carl Nicks and Robert Meachem, so they lost the latter two in free agency. They simply did not have the cap space to keep everyone.
New Orleans was left without a draft pick until the latter portion of the third round because of the Mark Ingram trade from last year and the bounty scandal punishment.
Nick Toon was, perhaps, its best draft pick. He will help fill the void Meachem left at receiver, though the Saints have a pretty good crop at the position anyway.
Overall Grade: F
Though they made some solid free-agent moves and did what they could during the draft, the offseason has just been a terrible one for the Saints. The bounty scandal will not go away—on the contrary, pending lawsuits threaten to make it worse—and their contract dispute with the reigning Offensive Player of the Year has not helped matters one bit.
New York Giants
Key Additions: Martellus Bennett, TE; Rocky Bernard (re-signed); Chase Blackburn (extension)
Key Losses: Brandon Jacobs, RB; Jake Ballard, TE; Mario Manningham, WR; Aaron Ross, CB
Draft Picks: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech (32); Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (63); Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (94); Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati (127); Brandon Mosley, OT, Auburn (131); Matt McCants, OT, UAB (201); Markus Kuhn, DT, NC State (239)
The Giants made yet another improbable run to the pinnacle of professional sports after squeaking into the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
Of course, other teams in the league would not take that lying down this offseason. Could the Giants keep up with improvements other teams made?
Free Agency: C-
The Giants did very little in free agency other than signing Martellus Bennett to shore up a tight end position ravaged by injury. This may seem like a step back, but...
This is a case of the rich getting richer. Despite owning the 32nd pick in the draft, the Giants managed to score one each of the best running backs, wide receivers and cornerbacks in David Wilson, Rueben Randle and Jayron Hosley, respectively.
Wilson will more than fill Brandon Jacobs' shoes, though utilizing a much different style. Namely, he will do it with some speed. He and Ahmad Bradshaw will form a nice tandem even if they are similar players.
Getting a player rated an entire round higher or better is always a good thing, and that is precisely what happened when New York landed Randle at the end of the second round.
Hosley was an underrated cornerback coming out of college who should replace Aaron Ross nicely. His skills as a kick returner will be a nice bonus.
Overall Grade: B
Despite the free-agent losses, the Giants managed to improve a Super Bowl-winning roster with an infusion of youth, but a deep NFC means they will have to work just to make it back to the postseason.
New York Jets
Key Additions: Tim Tebow, QB (trade); LaRon Landry, S; Yeremiah Bell, S; Sione Pouha, DT (re-signed)
Draft Picks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina (16); Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech (43); Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State (77); Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest (187); Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor (202); Robert Griffin, OG, Baylor (203); Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina (242); Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan (244)
Tebowmania has hit the greater New York City area.
Were it not for the Saints, the Jets might have the most headlines from this offseason. The staggering amount of coverage for the Jets' backup quarterback and punter protector is good for business.
Is it good for football, though?
Free Agency: C
Outside the Tebow move, which was a trade, the Jets did little in free agency. They brought in oft-injured and part-time Avenger LaRon Landry to replace oft-injured Jim Leonhard, and they backed Landry up with 34-year-old castoff Yeremiah Bell.
Not exactly exciting stuff.
Quinton Coples is one of those polarizing, boom-or-bust players out of the draft. He is a physical freak of nature with the talent to dominate at the next level, but questions about his motivation caused him to fall into New York's lap.
Though he will play mostly 5-technique as a defensive end in that 3-4 front, Coples might line up further outside in pass-rushing situations. At the very least, however, Coples should provide an upgrade over Mike DeVito along the defensive line.
Stephen Hill was another good draft pick for the Jets. He has massive upside, turning heads at the combine by posting the fastest time at receiver at 6'4". He is raw, however, and is unlikely to step in and contribute in the same way as Plaxico Burress right away.
He will, however, be able to take the top off defenses, which might help Mark Sanchez complete more underneath passes—as if his 6.4 YPA needed to take any more hits.
The rest of the draft was solid for the Jets.
Overall Grade: C
For all the spin owner Woody Johnson and the Jets put on the Tebow acquisition, it will likely do more harm than good. The calls for Tebow will grow louder with each loss in September and October. The Jets will need to start fast to avoid that drama.
Perhaps lighting a fire under Sanchez is just what he needed, but the Jets may have lighted a conflagration.
Key Additions: Shawntae Spencer, CB; Ron Bartell, CB; Reggie McKenzie, GM; Dennis Allen, HC; Philip Wheeler, LB
Key Losses: Stanford Routt, CB; Kevin Boss, TE; Jason Campbell, QB; Quentin Groves, DT; Chaz Schilens, WR
Draft Picks: Tony Bergstrom, OG, Utah (95); Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State (129); Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State (158); Juron Criner, WR, Arizona (168); Christo Bilukidi, DE, Georgia State (189); Nathan Stupar, OLB, Penn State (230)
Despite a poor start to their season and losing Darren McFadden after Week 7, the Raiders were in playoff contention until the bitter end because it turns out Tim Tebow does not win every game.
The front office got an overhaul in Packers alumnus Reggie McKenzie, who shortly overhauled the coaching staff by firing Hue Jackson. The new general manager quickly put his stamp on the offseason in free agency and the draft. Will it work?
Free Agency: C+
The Raiders lost a lot in free agency, particularly on defense. They made up for it somewhat by signing Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell to replace the departed Stanford Routt and, to a degree, Nnamdi Asomugha from a year ago.
Philip Wheeler is an underrated addition to that defense, however.
Because of a variety of trades—including an eye-popping deal for Carson Palmer last season—the Raiders did not have a pick until their compensatory slot came up in the third round.
Tony Bergstrom was a nice pick there, and Juron Criner is proving to be a great value thus far in OTAs.
Oakland did well with what it had, going against the Al Davis grain and trading back when needed.
Overall Grade: B-
Turbulence is to be expected whenever there are major organizational changes, but the Raiders seem to be moving in the right direction. Whether that will translate to a real shot at the playoffs in the suddenly stacked AFC West is another matter.
Key Additions: DeSean Jackson, WR (extension); DeMeco Ryans (trade); Evan Mathis, OL (re-signed); Demetress Bell, OT
Key Losses: Jason Peters, OT (injury); Vince Young, QB
Draft Picks: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (12); Mychal Kendricks, LB, California (46); Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall (59); Nick Foles, QB, Arizona (88); Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia (123); Dennis Kelly, OT, Purdue (153); Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa (194); Brandon Washington, OG, Miami (FL) (200), Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State (229)
Vince Young's departure was the end of the line for the Dream Team.
That is a good thing for the Eagles, who fell considerably short of lofty expectations last season. A Super Bowl favorite thanks to an apparently fantastic offseason, the Eagles failed to make the playoffs after stumbling out of the gate.
Did they replicate their offseason success from a year ago? Will it translate to better results on the field?
Free Agency: C+
Unlike last season, there were no real splashes here for the Eagles. They were able to keep their own talent in DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis, and they nabbed a decent replacement for Jason Peters—who will miss the season with a ruptured Achilles—in Demetress Bell.
The Eagles and the Bengals are tied atop my draft leaderboard, and that is where Philadelphia's real improvement will come.
Fletcher Cox will be inserted into an already solid rotation along the defensive line immediately, possibly gaining a starting job by midseason. He will help shore up the middle and provide quarterback pressure with his disruptive presence.
While DeMeco Ryans should start in the middle barring any injury setbacks, Mychal Kendricks will vie for a starting job on the outside and some playing time in the middle as well. Vinny Curry was a great pick to groom behind Jason Babin and Trent Cole, and Brandon Boykin was one of the bigger steals of the draft.
Even their late-round picks seem to be home runs.
Overall Grade: B+
The Eagles did not have the hyped offseason of a season ago, but they quietly made themselves favorites in the NFC East with an improved defense. Avoiding distractions was another big plus for the dangerous team out of Philadelphia.
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: William Gay, CB; James Farrior, LB; Aaron Smith, DE
Draft Picks: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (24); Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State (56); Sean Spence, LB, Miami (FL) (86); Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington (109); Chris Rainey, RB/WR, Florida (159); Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado (231); David Paulson, TE, Oregon (240); Terrence Frederick, CB, Texas A&M (246); Kelvin Beachum, OG, Southern Methodist (248)
The perennial Super Bowl contenders were stopped by the Denver Tebows in the playoffs last season, but a woeful offensive line that led to an injury to Ben Roethlisberger had something to do with that. They looked to replenish their ranks, as age has begun to ravage the roster.
Free Agency: D+
Free agency was brutal for the Steelers, who lost veterans to age or other teams.
James Farrior's leadership and tenacity will be missed, as will William Gay's experience. Pittsburgh did not sign anyone of note either.
The draft gods conspired to give the Steelers a fantastic draft and replenish the ranks.
Instead of participating in any trade shenanigans, the Steelers sat back and let the draft value come to them. It all began with David DeCastro—the best offensive guard in the draft and widely considered the second-best lineman altogether—who fell to the Steelers with the 24th pick. He will start at guard and anchor the middle alongside Maurkice Pouncey for years to come.
Then came Mike Adams—considered a first-rounder on potential and a popular mock draft pick for the Steelers—who fell to them in the late second round. He will vie for a starting gig himself.
Just like that, the Pittsburgh offensive line was revitalized.
Sean Spence was another great draft pick, likely to compete for Farrior's job. The hits kept coming, as Alameda Ta'amu adds depth to the defensive line and Chris Rainey adds speed and versatility to the offense.
Overall Grade: B-
They may have lost some key players in free agency, but the Steelers more than made up for it with a fantastic draft.
San Diego Chargers
Key Additions: Robert Meachem, WR; Ronnie Brown, RB; Eddie Royal, WR; Jarret Johnson, OLB; Jared Gaither, OT (re-signed)
Key Losses: Vincent Jackson, WR; Mike Tolbert, RB
Draft Picks: Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina (18); Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut (49); Brandon Taylor, S, LSU (73); Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette (110); Johnnie Troutman, OG, Penn State (149); Dave Molk, C, Michigan (226); Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (250)
In 2011, the San Diego Chargers finished 8-8, which was almost good enough for the playoffs. Did they do enough in the offseason to get back to the postseason this year?
Free Agency: C+
Though they were able to mitigate Vincent Jackson's departure by signing Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, let's face it: Neither of those guys can replace Jackson.
For all his ups and downs, Jackson is an elite talent at the position, or at least close to it when healthy. Meachem is a former first-rounder who has languished in the middle of New Orleans' depth chart, but he never made the most of his opportunities with Drew Brees throwing him the ball.
Perhaps the starting job in the San Diego offense will help him, but I am not sure he will ever live up to his hype. At least he has gotten off to a good start with the Chargers this offseason.
Losing Mike Tolbert could prove to be a bigger problem for the Chargers than they think. Ryan Mathews looks like a great every-down back, but he has been hampered by injuries through his first two years in the league. His backup is now aging, ineffective Ronnie Brown.
All things considered, the Chargers had a solid, unspectacular draft.
They needed a pass-rusher opposite Antwan Barnes, and they got that man in Melvin Ingram, short arms and all. Kendall Reyes and Ladarius Green were good values in the second and fourth rounds, respectively.
Overall Grade: B-
Last call for Norv Turner.
The Chargers retained the embattled coach despite their latest disappointment and rumors of his demise. They were greatly exaggerated, but they will simply have been too early if the Chargers cannot deliver. Considering the AFC West is no longer a cakewalk, this is much easier said than done.
This offseason will help them get back on track.
San Francisco 49ers
Key Additions: Randy Moss, WR; Mario Manningham, WR; Carlos Rogers, CB (re-signed); Brandon Jacobs, RB
Key Losses: Adam Snyder, OG
Draft Picks: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois (30); LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (61); Joe Looney, OG, Wake Forest (117); Darius Fleming, LB, Notre Dame (165); Trent Robinson, S, Michigan State (180); Jason Slowey, C, Western Oregon (199); Cam Johnson, OLB, Virginia (237)
Jim Harbaugh stormed the league last season, leading the 49ers to an unexpected 13-3 record and a couple of fumbles from the Super Bowl. Was it beginner's luck?
The rookie head coach did a fantastic job in San Francisco where his predecessors could not. This team seems poised to take the next step if it can continue on the same path while improving key area of personnel.
Free Agency: B
Alex Smith said it felt like waking up on Christmas with all the receiving weapons suddenly at his disposal, and it all began in free agency.
Randy Moss might be attempting an improbable comeback, but he has looked good thus far for the 49ers, though it remains to be seen how he will react to real football action.
Perhaps signing with his tail between his legs after declaring his desire for big money, Mario Manningham eked out a two-year deal with the 49ers after generating little interest on the open market.
The 49ers must end this dispute with Dashon Goldson, but re-signing Carlos Rogers was a positive move for that secondary.
A.J. Jenkins was a fine draft prospect, but was he worth taking 30th overall over the likes of Rueben Randle, Alshon Jeffery and Stephen Hill? He has not proven it thus far in practice, making great catches but having trouble with routes.
Finding an heir to Frank Gore's throne at running back is getting more important each year, as the 29-year-old is showing signs of slowing down. LaMichael James will vie for that role—at least in committee fashion—along with Kendall Hunter. Though James is not an every-down back, he was a good pick for the 49ers. He brings speed and versatility to the offense and special teams.
Overall Grade: B
All in all, the 49ers kept positive momentum after a crushing NFC championship game loss. If Alex Smith can continue his renaissance and the defense continues to be one of the league's best, the offseason moves could put them over the top.
Key Additions: Matt Flynn, QB; Jason Jones, DT; Alex Barron, OT; Kregg Lumpkin, RB; Marcus Trufant, CB (extension); Barrett Ruud, LB
Key Losses: John Carlson, TE; Anthony Hargrove, DT; Justin Forsett, RB; Charlie Whitehurst, QB
Draft Picks: Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia (15); Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State (47); Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (75); Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State (106); Jaye Howard, DT, Florida (114); Korey Toomer, LB, Idaho (154); Jeremy Lane, CB, Northwestern State (172); Winston Guy, S, Kentucky (181); J.R. Sweezy, DE, NC State (225); Greg Scruggs, DE, Louisville (232)
A year removed from their dubious 7-9 playoff season, the Seahawks were not quite near a playoff berth despite finishing with the same record. They have San Francisco's resurgence to thank for that.
It was an interesting offseason for Pete Carroll in the Pacific Northwest, though under the radar for the most part.
Free Agency: B
Despite being shut down by Peyton Manning before they could even get a foot in the door, the Seahawks had a decent free-agency period. They were able to land consolation prize Matt Flynn, who will be competing for the starting gig alongside incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and rookie Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks opened up their draft with a dubious pick in Bruce Irvin. The pass-rusher should play opposite Chris Clemons on the defensive line, but he did not play well against the run in college, and questions linger about translating to the next level.
Bobby Wagner, on the other hand, was a great pick for Carroll. He should give Barrett Ruud a run for his money in the middle of that defense—Ruud was the third-worst inside linebacker last year according to Pro Football Focus.
Wilson was a curious pick for the Seahawks. The 5'11" quarterback is behind the eight-ball because of his height, but his athleticism and composure make up for physical limitations. He has inserted himself into the quarterback competition with a strong offseason thus far.
Overall Grade: B
Seattle quietly boasts one of the NFL's best defenses, which should improve if Irvin can live up to his draft status.
If the 49ers take a step back, the Seahawks will pounce at the opportunity.
St. Louis Rams
Key Additions: Kendall Langford, DT; Cortland Finnegan, CB; Jeff Fisher, HC
Key Losses: Brandon Lloyd, WR
Draft Picks: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU (14); Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State (33); Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama (39); Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati (50); Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana (65); Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest (96); Rokevious Watkins, OG, South Carolina (150); Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western State (171); Aaron Brown, OLB, Hawaii (209); Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian (252)
Never fear, Jeff Fisher is here.
After a sabbatical from coaching, Fisher decided to take his talents to the Midwest. Was he able to begin a turnaround right away?
Free Agency: B+
Though they lost Brandon Lloyd in what was one of the more predictable free-agency moves, the Rams made some key signings.
Most notably, Cortland Finnegan comes over from the Titans to help shore up a woeful secondary, though the Rams may have overpaid a bit.
Not only did they get a king's ransom from Washington for the right to draft Robert Griffin III, but the Rams traded down again for more picks, still landing Michael Brockers in the process.
That they got one of the draft's best defensive tackles was good for their defensive line, but they also improved at key positions elsewhere.
Brian Quick might be raw, but he will be a welcome substitute for Brandon Lloyd, who bolted for Josh McDaniels in New England. Speedy Chris Givens could also be an upgrade to the receiving corps.
Though it was a risk, Janoris Jenkins may well be the best cover corner to come out of this class. Pairing him with Finnegan will solidify a secondary that was shaky last season.
The Rams simply made good picks after getting great value in trading down, making it one of the better drafts in the NFL.
Overall Grade: A-
They had a good free-agency period and a great draft class, but the Rams get dinged here because of the New Orleans bounty scandal. Unfortunately for the Rams, Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for his role in the debacle, leaving the Rams to scramble to hold down the fort on defense while he serves his suspension, assuming he is reinstated at some point.
Other than that, this was a positive offseason for the young team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Additions: Vincent Jackson, WR; Carl Nicks, OG; Eric Wright, CB; Connor Barth, K (re-signed); LeGarrette Blount, RB (re-signed); Greg Schiano, HC
Key Losses: Jeff Faine, C
Draft Picks: Mark Barron, S, Alabama (7); Doug Martin, RB, Boise State (31); Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska (58); Najee Goode, LB, West Virginia (140); Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia (174); Michael Smith, RB, Utah State (212); Drake Dunsmore, TE, Northwestern (233)
A promising 2010 season that nearly resulted in a playoff berth turned into a nightmare in 2011 as Buccaneer players mutinied. Josh Freeman regressed, throwing 22 interceptions after avoiding mistakes in his first year as starter, and the team lost 10 straight games to close the season.
What did they do to improve their team this offseason?
Free Agency: A
After keeping the checkbook closed last offseason, the Buccaneers had $60 million to spend this year. That is a lot of cheddar.
They were able to lure free agency's best receiver in Vincent Jackson and offensive lineman in Carl Nicks with big money, instantly improving the offense as a result. They also landed cornerback Eric Wright from Detroit.
Winning free agency guarantees nothing—just ask the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles—but the Buccaneers got off on the right foot this year.
The Bucs followed up a great free-agency period with a good draft. Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David should all step in and start right away, with good results to boot.
Overall Grade: A
Tampa Bay is moving in the right direction after exiling Raheem Morris. The team is still young and features a quarterback on the rise in Josh Freeman, who should bounce back after a disappointing season.
Key Additions: Kamerion Wimbley, DE; Steve Hutchinson, OG
Key Losses: Cortland Finnegan, CB; Jason Jones, DL; Jake Scott, OL (unsigned); Barrett Ruud, LB
Draft Picks: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor (20); Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina (52); Mike Martin, DT, Michigan (82); Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson (115); Taylor Thompson, TE, Southern Methodist (145); Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State (190); Scott Solomon, DE, Rice (211)
Tennessee quietly had a solid season, missing out on a playoff berth on a tiebreaker. The Titans have their quarterback of the present (Matt Hasselbeck) and of the future (Jake Locker), but did they do enough this offseason to help get them to the next level?
Free Agency: C+
The Titans were quiet in free agency, electing to let Cortland Finnegan and his eventually massive contract go elsewhere. Their biggest loss might be Barrett Ruud, who was not particularly effective for the Titans anyway.
Selecting Kendall Wright with the 20th overall pick was a bit of a head-scratcher coming from the Titans, who already had Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Damian Williams in the fold.
Wright should be good for the Titans, but they could have addressed a more pressing need and gotten a quality receiver later in the draft.
Zach Brown is another boom-or-bust player out of North Carolina—they seem to be pumping out a lot of those players nowadays—but the speedy linebacker has picked up the playbook well and impressed at Titans OTAs thus far.
Markelle Martin and Taylor Thompson were good values for the Titans as well.
Overall Grade: B-
A good draft will yield contributors for the Titans, but it might be a while before they get to that point. That means the Titans did little to improve their team in the short term, considering their lack of free-agent activity.
Perhaps an upgrade to Jake Locker will remedy that.
Key Signings: Josh Morgan, WR; Pierre Garcon, WR; Brandon Meriweather, S; London Fletcher, LB (re-signed); Tanard Jackson, S
Key Losses: LaRon Landry, S
Draft Picks: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (2); Josh LeRibeus, OG, Southern Methodist (71); Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (102); Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas (119); Adam Gettis, OG, Iowa; (141); Alfred Morris, RB, FAU (173); Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota (193); Richard Crawford, CB, Southern Methodist (213); Jordan Bernstine, CB, Iowa (217)
Washington is on the rise, but so is the rest of the NFC, particularly the East division. It will be interesting to see if the Redskins' offseason moves were enough to close the gap.
The stage is set for a rookie sensation in Washington.
Free Agency: C+
Aside from getting hit with a cap penalty along with the rival Cowboys, free agency left something to be desired in Washington.
While the Redskins nabbed some wide receivers to bolster their corps, they may have gone after the wrong ones.
Pierre Garcon is a fine addition, but did they need to pay him $42.5 million over five seasons? Josh Morgan has been a perennial preseason MVP in San Francisco, but he has done little during the regular season to warrant excitement.
Further down the line we have Tanard Jackson, one of the worst-tackling safeties in the league, competing with Madieu Williams, who was the second-worst safety in the league in 2010 according to PFF and did not perform well in limited duty with the 49ers last year.
The Redskins largely stayed away from the big-ticket mistake, but they did not necessarily spend their money wisely.
The Redskins wanted their man, and they got him, though they paid a steep price. Robert Griffin III is their quarterback of the future, and he looks the part thus far in OTAs.
Though they also needed a backup quarterback of the future thanks to the departure of John Beck and Rex Grossman's limited longterm value, the fact remains that the Redskins took two quarterbacks with their first three picks of the draft. Kirk Cousins might make for a nice backup, but they might have been better served sticking with Grossman and using that pick to fill another need.
One underrated pick for the Redskins is Adam Gettis, the highly athletic guard out of Iowa. He will fit in nicely with Mike Shanahan's ZBS when he develops.
Overall Grade: B
While their choices were not exactly inspiring at times, the Redskins made a concerted effort to fill holes in free agency. If several of those guys pan out, they will be in great shape this season.
Griffin has the city in a tizzy, but I am not sure he will be enough to catch the other three NFC East teams.
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