NFL Free Agents 2018: Grades, Winners & Losers for Friday's Signings

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2018

NFL Free Agents 2018: Grades, Winners & Losers for Friday's Signings

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    The first week of 2018 NFL free agency may be winding down, but the excitement level shouldn't be.

    Sure, many of the big names found homes shortly after the new league year officially opened Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. The number of deals announced during the "legal tampering" period took some of the drama out of the official start of free agency. However, impact free agents don't always sign on that first day.

    Just look at the Minnesota Vikings' signing of Case Keenum last offseason. Keenum proved to be a difference-maker, but he didn't join Minnesota until the end of March. (Granted, Keenum's arrival on the Vikings didn't look like a big deal at the time.)

    We're still early enough into free agency that many of the signings remain attention-grabbing. Minnesota's latest deal—a one-year contract with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, per ESPN's Adam Schefter—is a prime example.

    Minnesota's agreement with Richardson was far from the only move made Friday. Let's examine the biggest winners and losers of the day, grade the most notable moves and look ahead at the impact of the activity.

Biggest Winners

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    Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings kicked off the new league year with a pair of moves to fill their quarterback vacancy. Minnesota inked new starter Kirk Cousins to an unprecedented three-year, fully guaranteed deal and traded for Trevor Siemian to be his backup.

    On Friday, the team added a significant piece to its defense by signing Richardson. He's a versatile defensive lineman who can plug the middle in the run game, create interior pressure and occupy blockers. His presence should make edge-rushers like Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter even more dangerous.

               

    Kyle Fuller

    Earlier this month, the Chicago Bears put the transition tag on cornerback Kyle Fuller. On Friday, the Green Bay Packers signed him to an offer sheet, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

    The Bears didn't take long to match Green Bay's offer, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. As a result, Fuller will get up to $56 million over the next four years, including $18 million guaranteed.

    "Kyle is a player we value," general manager Ryan Pace said when the Bears placed the transition tag on Fuller, via the team's official website. "This allows us to continue to work together on a long-term deal."

            

    Johnson Bademosi

    Cornerback Johnson Bademosi was primarily a special teams player with the New England Patriots last season. While he did see some time in the defensive secondary, he was merely a spot starter there. He was also one of the weak links in the Patriots defense in Super Bowl LII.

    The Houston Texans signed Bademosi to a two-year deal Friday worth up to $6.25 million, according to Schefter. That isn't too shabby for a special teamer and a backup.

               

    Los Angeles Chargers

    Kicking was a big issue for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. The team used four different players at the position—Nick Novak, Travis Coons, Younghoe Koo and Nick Rose—but never found any dependability. That quartet combined to make just nine of 19 attempts from 30 yards or longer.

    Considering the Chargers narrowly missed the postseason and that four of L.A.'s seven losses were by three points or less, one can only assume a reliable kicker might have changed the course of the season.

    On Friday, Rapoport reported the Chargers are expected to sign veteran kicker Caleb Sturgis, who is fairly reliable when healthy. A hip injury ended Sturgis' 2017 season after just one game, but he has otherwise made 81.0 percent of his field-goal attempts and 97.2 percent of his extra-point attempts over the course of his five-year career.

              

    Michael Crabtree

    The Oakland Raiders released wide receiver Michael Crabtree on Thursday, likely to make room for free-agent addition Jordy Nelson. Though Crabtree is coming off a down year—he had just 618 receiving yards on 58 catches—he didn't stay unemployed for long.

    According to Schefter, the Baltimore Ravens agreed to give him a three-year deal Friday.

                

    Baltimore Ravens

    The Crabtree deal is also a win for the Ravens, who have next to nothing at the receiver position otherwise. Mike Wallace led all Baltimore wideouts with 748 receiving yards last season, and he's currently looking for work as a free agent.

    While Crabtree underwhelmed in 2017, he did find the end zone eight times, and he's two years removed from a 1,000-yard season. He'll upgrade Baltimore's passing attack.

Biggest Losers

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    Seattle Seahawks

    The Seahawks have allowed their once-mighty defense to be systematically dismantled this offseason.

    They traded away Michael Bennett, released Richard Sherman and failed to re-sign Richardson. Seattle traded a second-round pick to acquire Richardson last season, so his departure hurts more than the losses of Bennett and Sherman.

    "They gave me a better offer than Seattle did," Richardson said of his new team, the Vikings, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

    While Minnesota offers Richardson a chance to get to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks now must admit they're closer to a rebuild than a deep playoff run.

          

    Bashaud Breeland

    Cornerback Bashaud Breeland didn't dominate during his four seasons with the Washington Redskins, but he's been a solid player over that span. He was set to cash in via free agency this offseason.

    The corner-needy Carolina Panthers initially agreed to give Breeland a three-year, $24 million deal, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. However, Breeland failed his physical, and the Panthers nullified his contract Friday.

    "Breeland told ESPN he cut the heel of his left foot on March 4 while in the Dominican Republic, where a golf cart hit him in the back of his leg and reopened a wound first suffered in fourth grade," ESPN.com's David Newton explained.

    Not only is Breeland's deal with the Panthers now out the window, but his injury may prevent him from getting a long-term deal elsewhere.

          

    Roberto Aguayo

    The Chargers' signing of Sturgis can't be good news for fellow kicker Roberto Aguayo, who signed a reserve/futures contract with the team earlier this year.

    While the Chargers still may allow the 2016 second-round pick to compete for a job, it's likely going to be difficult for him to win the starting role. In his lone season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Aguayo made just 71.0 percent of his field-goal attempts and missed two extra points.

Move Grades

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    Vikings Add Richardson: A

    Adding Richardson is a home run for a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Last year's top-ranked defense (275.9 yards per game allowed) now looks even more dominant.

          

    Packers Sign Fuller to an Offer Sheet: A

    Brian Gutekunst's decision to ink Fuller to an offer sheet is a smart move that highlights the aggressive mentality he's brought to Green Bay. It was a win-win move, and though the Bears matched Green Bay's offer sheet, Gutekunst made sure Chicago had to give Fuller a notable chunk of guaranteed money.

           

    Texans Add Bademosi: C

    This isn't a sexy move for the Texans, but it's solid nevertheless. Bademosi is one of the NFL's best special teamers, and he'll provide depth in the secondary.

          

    Chargers Sign Sturgis: B-

    Is adding a kicker exciting? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely. While kickers like Harrison Butker and Robbie Gould made over 90 percent of their field goals last season, an 81 percent career rate is none too shabby. It's certainly better than what the Chargers had last season.

            

    Ravens Sign Crabtree: C+

    While Crabtree will help boost Baltimore's anemic passing game, he won't come cheap. His three-year deal is worth up to $21 million, with $15 million over the first two years and $11 million guaranteed, according to Rapoport.

    This deal pales in comparison to the ones Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson signed with Kansas City and Chicago this offseason, respectively. However, it's a lot for a guy who will turn 31 in mid-September.

           

    Eagles Release Vinny Curry: D

    The Eagles released defensive lineman Vinny Curry on Friday in a cap-clearing move.

    "It's difficult to part ways with a player like Vinny who has made an impact on the field, in the locker room and in the community," the Eagles said in a statement, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com. "We wish Vinny and his family all the best moving forward."

    Releasing Curry was a necessary evil to clear cap space, and it makes some sense since Philadelphia acquired Bennett. However, it hurts that the Eagles couldn't find a way to retain a tremendous player or at least get something in return via a trade.

            

    Patriots Add Adrian Clayborn: B

    The Patriots managed to produce 42 sacks in the 2017 regular season, but they didn't have a premier pass-rusher in 2017. They sought to rectify that Friday by reaching an agreement with Adrian Clayborn, according to Schefter.

    While Clayborn isn't a premier sack artist, he was solid off the edge for the Atlanta Falcons last season. He had 9.5 sacks in 2017 and 14.0 sacks over the last two seasons.

                

    Patriots Add Jeremy Hill: C-

    The Patriots also added running back Jeremy Hill on Friday, according to ESPN's Field Yates, which will look great if he can return to his rookie form (5.1 yards per carry). However, Hill has been a major disappointment over the last three seasons, and he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry last year.

    Hill is by no means a replacement for Dion Lewis, who is headed to the Tennessee Titans.

           

    Chiefs Add Chad Henne: A

    The Kansas City Chiefs added quarterback Chad Henne on Friday, according to Garafolo. That gives Patrick Mahomes a mentor with plenty of experience backing up young signal-callers. 

Impact of Friday's Activity

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    With the Bears matching Fuller's deal, the Packers could still be in the market for a cornerback. Players like E.J. Gaines and Adam Jones are still looking for work, so one of them may find an opportunity in Green Bay. Due to his failed physical with Carolina, Breeland also remains unemployed.

    Richardson's one-year deal with Minnesota is worth $8 million in base salary, and he can earn another $3 million in incentives, according to Rapoport. In turn, that may set the bar for how much teams are willing to offer free agent Ndamukong Suh. That could be a disappointment for Suh, who earned roughly $60 million over the past three seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

    Suh isn't the only big-name defensive lineman on the open market now that the Eagles have parted ways with Curry. The 29-year-old produced 3.0 sacks on a rotational basis in 2017, and he has 22.0 sacks over the last five seasons. Expect him to land a hefty contract from a team in need of a defensive end, although the Patriots may no longer be among that group now that they've added Clayborn.

    Baltimore's signing of Crabtree could have a big impact on wide receivers still looking for work, including Eric Decker, Terrelle Pryor, Jeremy Maclin and Kendall Wright. While Crabtree's deal is reasonable, it lowers the chances of anyone else landing a fat, Watkins-like contract.

    The Chiefs' signing of Henne, meanwhile, leaves the Jaguars without their veteran presence behind Blake Bortles.