Offseason Report Cards for All 32 NFL Teams
Winning in an offseason grade or power ranking is a lot like being the fastest guy in the 40-yard dash—it's a cool footnote, but it never guarantees success. That doesn't mean we don't care who can outrun whom in the 40.
With one week of NFL free agency gone and the NFL preseason creeping just around the corner, here is our look at the offseason report cards for all 32 NFL teams.
Additions: QB Kevin Kolb, DE Vonnie Holliday, G Deuce Lutui, TE Todd Heap, G Floyd Womack, CB Richard Marshall, G Daryn Colledge, LB Stewart Bradley, WR Chansi Stuckey, TE Jeff King, DE Nick Eason
You don't have to like what the Cardinals gave up to get Kevin Kolb, but making a trade for a potential franchise quarterback had to be done. Kolb may not have the potential of a first-round draft pick, but he's more NFL ready and does have a high ceiling.
Rookies: RB Ryan Williams, CB Patrick Peterson, TE Rob Housler, WR DeMarco Sampson, DE David Carter, LB Quan Sturdivant, RB Anthony Sherman, LB Sam Acho
The Cardinals do a good job addressing needs and grabbing talented players in the NFL draft, something they did again this year. Arizona's selection of Patrick Peterson allowed them to trade Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kevin Kolb, and their pick of Ryan Williams opened the door for a trade of Tim Hightower.
Watch out for linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Sam Acho. Both could produce early on.
Released: CB Da'Mon Merkerson
There were no notable releases in Arizona.
Overall Grade: A
Adding a potential franchise quarterback alone gives the Cardinals a high grade, regardless of what they gave up. Time will be the judge on if Kolb was worth DRC and a second-round pick. If he becomes the next Matt Cassel or Aaron Rodgers, it was worth it.
Additions: G Justin Blalock, DE Ray Edwards, K Matt Bryant, T Tyson Clabo, LB Stephen Nicholas, LB Mike Peterson, CB Brent Grimes
The Falcons offseason priorites, as written by me, were to re-sign their offensive lineman and Brent Grimes and then get better at defensive end. They did all three.
Atlanta did not make the big splash in free agency, but they did pick up a defensive end who totaled 53 quarterback pressures last year. That would have been good for fourth overall in the NFL among defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme.
Rookies: WR Julio Jones, LB Akeem Dent, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, K Matt Bosher, G Andrew Jackson, DE Cliff Matthews
Atlanta mortgaged their 2011 draft, and part of the 2012 draft, for a chance to draft what they believe will be an All-Pro wide receiver. If Julio Jones pays off, and early practices look good, their offense may be unstoppable.
The remainder of the class is underwhelming, but Jacquizz Rodgers might replace Jason Snelling as the team's third-down back.
Released: WR Michael Jenkins, DE Jamaal Anderson
Both Jenkins and Anderson were past due for a release, and both were expendable with the drafting of Jones and drafting of Edwards.
Overall Grade: A
The Falcons are not playing around. It's Super Bowl or bust in 2011. They have the talent to repeat their 2010 record of 13-3 and make a serious run at a Super Bowl berth.
Additions: FB Vonta Leach, G Marshall Yanda, CB Chris Carr
While I am not a huge fan of re-signing your own free agents and ignoring an open market, Baltimore chose to do just that—and they didn't even ask my opinion.
Baltimore has a good young team, but there are questions at offensive tackle and at cornerback that could have been helped through the draft.
Vonta Leach will replace Le'Ron McClain, which I see as a push upgrade.
Rookies: CB Jimmy Smith, T Jah Reid, RB Anthony Allen, WR Torrey Smith, WR Tandon Doss, QB Tyrod Taylor, CB Chykie Brown, DE Pernell McPhee
The Ravens gambled early and often in the 2011 NFL draft by selecting players with character issues or serious developmental delays in their game. Jimmy Smith will be asked to play a major role early on, but the rest of this class could redshirt in their rookie season.
Released: NT Kelly Gregg, WR Derrick Mason, RB Willis McGahee, TE Todd Heap
I may be wrong about this, but the Ravens made a mistake in letting two of these players go. I understand the need to make room on the roster and moving Mason and McGahee, but Heap and Gregg were leaders on each side of the ball. Losing their presence will hit the Ravens' locker room.
Overall Grade: C-
Baltimore usually does a very nice job during the offseason, which is why this year's crop has been surprisingly bland. The draft could turn out to be a good group, but that will hinge on Smith's ability to step in as a CB1 this year.
Other than Jimmy Smith, the Ravens did nothing to get better this year.
Additions: LB Nick Barnett, DE Lionel Dotson, QB Tyler Thigpen, CB Drayton Florence, QB/WR Brad Smith
The Bills are not expected to make major signings, but they did a nice job in acquiring talented players Brad Smith and Nick Barnett this offseason. Both could help close the gap, slightly, between the Bills and the other three teams in the AFC East.
Rookies: CB Aaron Williams, LB Kelvin Sheppard, S Da'Norris Searcy, DT Marcell Dareus, LB Chris White, CB Justin Rogers, DT Marcus Jasper, T Chris Hairston
The Bills' draft class was as sexy as Rex Ryan nude but much like Ryan in his birthday suit, the Bills' draft was solid at times, squishy others.
The picks of Marcel Dareus and Kelvin Sheppard should pay off immediately. The other six selections were all questionable in value and even in filling positions of need.
Overall Grade: B
The Bills definitely improved, even with the loss of linebacker Paul Posluszny, but they did not do enough to become a serious competitor in a power division of the NFL.
If the Bills can string together multiple offseasons as solid as this one, they'll be back to competing soon.
Free Agents: TE Ben Hartstock, S Kevin Payne, K Olindo Mare, S Sean Considine, LB Omar Gaither, RB DeAngelo Williams, LB James Anderson, DT Ron Edwards, DE Charles Johnson, TE Greg Olsen, TE Jeremy Shockey, QB Derek Anderson
Taking a broad look at what the Carolina Panthers did this week in free agency is impressive, even if you consider that they overpaid for Charles Johnson and DeAngelo Williams. Luring so many talented players to a franchise that went 2-14 last year was not an easy feat.
I had planned to give the Panthers an "A+," until I saw that they signed Derek Anderson today. If they have any thoughts about starting him over Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen, someone needs to drive to Charlotte and slap Ron Rivera square in the face.
Rookies: QB Cam Newton, C Zack Williams, CB Brandon Hogan, WR Kealoha Pilares, DT Sione Fua, LB Lawrence Wilson, T Lee Ziemba, DT Terrell McClain
I am on record many times saying the Panthers dropped the ball on the 2011 NFL draft. I won't change my opinion on that until Cam Newton is an established NFL quarterback.
Released: LB Nic Harris, QB Keith Null, DE Tyler Brayton, DT Ed Johnson, K John Kasay
The Panthers only surprise move, and it was hardly shocking, was to let John Kasay go. And at that it was only sad, since he had been with the Panthers since their inception.
Overall Grade: B-
A bad draft class hurts the Panthers' overall grade considerably. I do like what the team is doing, and I hope Cam Newton pans out, but until that is more certain I cannot raise their grade.
Additions: RB Marion Barber, DT Amobi Okoye, WR Roy Williams, C Chris Spencer, TE Matt Spaeth, LB Nick Roach, P Adam Podlesh, WR Sam Hurd, DT Anthony Adams, DE Vernon Gholston
The Chicago Bears had been chastised for not adding a wide receiver through the NFL draft, so they picked up Roy Williams and Sam Hurd off the Dallas trash heap. Williams was his most productive under Mike Martz in Detroit. Chicago is hoping lightning strikes twice for them this year.
The other signings were largely doing what Chicago does—picking up formerly high draft picks and hoping they can rehabilitate in Chicago. Marion Barber, Amobi Okoye and Vernon Gholston will all be expected to improve under the Bears' system.
Rookies: T Gabe Carimi, S Chris Conte, DT Stephen Paea, LB J.T. Thomas, QB Nathan Enderle
Adding a proven left tackle in Gabe Carimi was a must-have pick. He is a perfect fit for the Bears' offense and has franchise tackle written all over. I do like Stephen Paea, but for a player so strong, he gets moved around easily. He may struggle if placed in a one-technique position.
Released: G Herman Johnson, TE Brandon Manumaleuna
The Bears lost no one of note here.
Overall Grade: C+
One move that didn't work in the categories above was the trade of tight end Greg Olsen for a 2012 third-round pick. I detest this trade for Chicago. It's shown that 33 percent of third-round picks go on to contribute in the NFL at a high level. Greg Olsen was already a proven weapon.
It is that move to trade Olsen for a third-round pick that drives the Bears' grade down.
Additions: LB Thomas Howard, CB Nate Clements, RB Cedric Benson, S Gibril Wilson, QB Bruce Gradkowski, RB Brian Leonard, T Dennis Roland, WR Quan Cosby
The Bengals did the right thing in re-signing running back Cedric Benson to a one-year deal. He will need to prove himself all over again after an arrest in Austin this summer.
Outside of Benson, the Bengals made few moves through free agency, despite having money to spend.
Rookies: LB Dontay Moch, QB Andy Dalton, RB Jay Finley, G Clint Boling, C Ryan McKnight, CB Korey Lindsey, WR A.J. Green, WR Ryan Whalen, S Robert Sands
The Cincinnati Bengals earned one of my highest draft grades for their moves to pick up the draft's best wide receiver, an NFL-ready quarterback and a number of good athletes on defense. If Dalton to Green becomes a lethal combination in the NFL, this draft may rank as the best in Bengal history.
Released: DE Antwan Odom, WR Shay Hodge, K Clint Stitser, T Andrew Mitchell
Cincinnati had no choice but to let Antwan Odom go after he missed the 2010 season with injury.
Overall Grade: B
What doesn't show up here is that the Bengals alienated quarterback Carson Palmer by refusing to trade him. Instead, Palmer will retire and net the Bengals nothing in return for his services.
Additions: DE Derreck Robinson, G Billy Yates, K Phil Dawson, LB Marcus Benard, TE Evan Moore, G John Greco, S Usama Young, DE Jayme Mitchell, RB Brandon Jackson, LB D'Qwell Jackson
What the hell are the Cleveland Browns thinking? Of the free agents signed, how many will have a chance at starting? Maybe one, and that would be guard Billy Yates or John Greco at right guard.
This offseason makes no sense.
Rookies: TE Jordan Cameron, WR Greg Little, S Eric Hagg, T Jason Pinkston, DE Jabaal Sheard, CB Buster Skrine, RB Owen Marecic, DT Phil Taylor
Trading out of the No. 6 overall pick took big cajones, but the Browns did it in hopes of adding quantity picks over one superstar. The draft was well executed and saw Cleveland pick up four potential rookie starters (Cameron, Little, Hagg, Sheard).
Released: QB Jake Delhomme, LB Eric Alexander
And it's about damn time Jake Delhomme was cut.
Overall Grade: C
Between a great draft class and an almost non-existent free agent group, the Browns were able to remain largely unchanged this summer in terms of players who can be expected to start in Week 1.
Additions: G Kyle Kosier, T Doug Free, DE Kenyon Coleman, DE Marcus Spears
Dallas prioritized their offseason by signing their own free agents and then going after cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. They did a good job re-signing their own guys, but the defense has holes that must be addressed, otherwise not much will change for the Cowboys' in 2011.
Rookies: T Tyron Smith, RB DeMarco Murray, LB Bruce Carter, CB Josh Thomas, C Bill Nagy, WR Dwayne Harris, RB Shaun Chapas, G David Arkin
I actually like the Cowboys' second and third picks better than their first. Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray are both great fits in the Cowboy scheme and will be immediate playmakers.
Tyron Smith will be much better at right tackle versus having to play on the left side if Doug Free was not brought back.
Released: WR Roy Williams, RB Marion Barber, LB Kelvin Smith, G Leonard Davis, T Marc Colombo, K Kris Brown
Dallas cleaned house, and in the meantime picked up much needed cap space. Now, where will they use it?
Overall Grade: A
Dallas did a nice job in resisting the urge to overspend this summer. Instead, they are building through the draft and cutting their losses on veteran players eating up cap space. This is smart management and good business.
Additions: TE Dante Rosario, TE Daniel Fells, RB Willis McGahee, DE Jeremy Jarmon, DT Marcus Thomas, DE Derrick Harvey, DT Brodrick Bunkley
If the Denver defense, and particularly head coach John Fox, can get production from his new defensive linemen, the Broncos defense might just be alright this year.
Rookies: LB Von Miller, S Rahim Moore, S Quinton Carter, T Orlando Franklin, DE Jeremy Beal, LB Mike Mohamed, TE Julius Thomas, TE Virgil Green, LB Nate Irving
Denver was lucky enough to draft the best player in the class when they selected linebacker Von Miller No. 2 overall. He set the tone for a class that features what I see as five future starters.
Overall Grade: A
Denver did not do much through free agency, and they failed to move quarterback Kyle Orton, but they drafted very well in John Elway's first year and have the building blocks on defense to really dominate that side of the football.
Additions: LB Justin Durant, LB Stephen Tulloch, CB Chris Houston, CB Eric Wright, WR Rashied Davis, C Dylan Gandy, K Dave Rayner, QB Drew Stanton, S John Wendling, CB Maurice Leggett, WR Maurice Stovall
Signing two new starting linebackers and at least one new starting cornerback has to be considered a great offseason for Detroit. They made smart moves here to get better in a division that features two power teams from the 2010 season.
Rookies: DT Nick Fairley, RB Mikel Leshoure, WR Titus Young, T Johnny Culbreath, LB Doug Hogue
The Lions' first three picks may all start as rookies, and all three were in my 2011 top 50 for the NFL draft.
Overall Grade: A+
You cannot argue against what the Lions are doing to improve this roster. They have made smart, timely moves in free agency and surprisingly good draft picks.
Green Bay Packers
Additions: WR James Jones, FB John Kuhn, K Mason Crosby, WR Brett Swain, TE Spencer Havner
The Packers really never seemed to care that free agency had started. Their motto seemed to be, "We won it last year, come get it." And that just might work.
Rookies: T Derek Sherrod, WR Randall Cobb, TE D.J. Williams, G Caleb Schlauderaff, LB D.J. Smith, LB Ricky Elmore, TE Ryan Taylor, DE Lawrence Guy, RB Alex Green, CB Davon House
There were a few notable picks here that I really liked. The addition of Derek Sherrod and Davon House were both smart for reasons of depth and potentially replacing veteran players.
Alex Green is a powerful back who could see carries in his rookie season. The steal of the class may be receiver/returner Randall Cobb.
He has a second-gear that no one on the Packers' currently has.
Released: LB Nick Barnett, LB Brandon Chillar, DE Justin Harrell, LB Brady Poppinga, T Mark Tauscher, S Michael Greco, CB Curtis Young
Some notable names will be playing elsewhere next season, but all of the cuts made by the Packers were in good timing.
Overall Grade: B
This was largely a quiet offseason in Green Bay. The Packers did not get overtly better, but they did not get much worse either. This was your classic give-and-get offseason with no major waves being made.
Additions: CB Johnathan Joseph, S Danieal Manning, G Kasey Studdard, DT Damione Lewis, T Rashad Butler, WR Jacoby Jones, DT Tim Bulman, QB Matt Leinart
I really like what the Texans' have done here. Signing Johnathan Joseph will shore up a cornerback position that really struggled in 2010.
With Joseph, 2010 first-rounder Kareem Jackson and 2011 third-rounder Brandon Harris in place, the Texans have a good, young nucleus to build around.
Rookies: DE J.J. Watt, LB Brooks Reed, CB Brandon Harris, CB Rashad Carmichael, S Shiloh Keo, QB T.J. Yates, T Derek Newton, LB Cheta Ozougwu
The draft picks were all good, but the first three really jump off the page. Watt, Reed and Harris may all be starting by the end of the 2011 season. Safety Shiloh Keo is a sleeper to watch out for.
Released: QB Dan Orlovksy, DT Amobi Okoye, WR David Anderson
Overall Grade: A+
The Houston Texans are ready to take control of the AFC South.
In 2010, the Texans split with the division champion Colts, winning one and losing one during the regular season. Had Houston's defense been better, it's easy to see how it could have won the division last year.
In 2011, the defense will be better. Much better. Coupled with the hiring of coordinator Wade Phillips are the signings of top players Joseph and Manning in the secondary, as well as a draft class loaded with players for the 3-4 scheme Phillips will be installing in Houston.
Additions: QB Peyton Manning, RB Joseph Addai, QB Nate Davis, DT Antonio Johnson, DT Eric Foster
Many will point out that the Colts re-signed two key players when they inked Manning and Addai to new deals, but did anyone really think either player would leave? Manning was the team's franchise tag player, and Addai is a poor fit in any offense outside Indiana.
Indianapolis failed to improve the roster. What will be different from the 2010 squad that went 10-6 and lost to the Texans when the entire roster was healthy in Week 1?
Rookies: T Anthony Castonzo, G Ben Ijalana, DT Drake Nevis, RB Delone Carter, CB Chris Rucker
I actually really liked the Colts' 2011 draft class, but I do not expect any of the players chosen to contribute in 2011.
The Colts run a very complex offensive system, especially for linemen and running backs. Three of their first four picks will be render useless unless they have an Einstein-like ability to devour information.
Overall Grade: C-
While the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans were busy improving their rosters through free agency, the Indianapolis Colts were trying to figure out how to turn off the alarm clock that had been ringing for five days announcing free agency began.
It would seem the Colts believe they are good enough to win the AFC South, and a Super Bowl, this season without making any move outside the organization to get better.
This is a team that went 10-6 last year with very few injuries on offense other than Austin Collie, a third-option receiver, and running back Joseph Addai. Are you telling me those two players are worth two or three wins?
Of course, getting Dallas Clark back may be worth a win or two, but is Peyton Manning healthy enough to play himself? Manning, who had two offseason neck surgeries, has still not thrown this offseason and is not ready to start training camp.
The Colts, whether fans want to agree or not, are primed for a disappointing season. Just remember you heard it here first.
Additions: LB Paul Posluszny, LB Clint Session, G Jason Spitz, CB Drew Coleman, S Dawan Landry, P Matt Turk
The Jaguars found a way to lure two starting linebackers and a punishing safety to town—helping close the gap between their roster and that of the Colts and now the Texans. Jacksonville did a great job identifying targets and jumping out in front of the rest of the league.
Rookies: QB Blaine Gabbert, S Chris Prosinksi, CB Rod Issac, WR Cecil Shorts, G Will Rackley
The Jaguars entire draft class rests on the ability of Blaine Gabbert to become a franchise quarterback. Lucky for him, he should be able to sit the entire 2011 season behind David Garrard.
Released: G Justin Smiley, G Vince Manuwai, DE Derrick Harvey, CB Tyron Brackenridge, QB Scott Riddle
Overall Grade: B+
This, folks, is how you use free agency to turn over a roster in a hurry.
The Jacksonville Jaguars did an amazing job fixing a defense that was terrible in 2010 and adding at offensive guard to upgrade a young offensive line.
The lone weakness on the roster right now is at cornerback, where Drew Coleman will help, but he alone cannot plug the massive hole in the Jaguars secondary.
The run defense in Jacksonville should be better, but stopping the pass will be tough.
Kansas City Chiefs
Additions: DT Kelly Gregg, WR Steve Breaston, C Casey Wiegmann, TE Leonard Pope, T Ryan O'Callaghan, S Jon McGraw, CB Travis Daniels, WR Terrance Copper, RB Jackie Battle
You might hear critics say the Chiefs hedged their bets on an aging defensive tackle, but that's not entirely true. Yes, Kelly Gregg is aging, but he was also one of the best nose tackles in the NFL during the 2009 season. If he can return to form, the Chiefs have a steal.
The signing of Steve Breaston may be more important as he reunites with Todd Haley to give Kansas City a quality inside receiver.
Rookies: WR Jonathan Baldwin, G Rodney Hudson, RB Shane Bannon, DT Jerrell Powe, LB Gabe Miller, QB Ricky Stanzi, CB Jalil Brown, DE Allen Bailey
I was not sold on the selection of Jonathan Baldwin, but when looking at the players available to the Chiefs there, they could afford to take a gamble on a potential No.1 receiver. The remainder of the class was out of this world. The Chiefs literally hit on every pick.
Released: WR Chris Chambers, CB Jackie Bates, G Brian Waters, TE Brad Cottam
Overall Grade: A+
I have been very vocal on Twitter about my love of the Chiefs offseason thus far. Their draft class was near flawless, addressing positions of need and getting the best value for their picks.
Free agency has been much of the same. Kansas City signed the best available slot receiver and a player familiar with head coach Todd Haley's offense. They also made a move to shore up the defensive line with nose tackle Kelly Gregg.
Overall, there is a lot to love in Kansas City this season despite a tough schedule.
Additions: RB Reggie Bush, QB Matt Moore, DT Ronald Fields, LB Jason Trusnik, LB Kevin Burnett, DT Tony McDaniel
There was no marquee move here, and even the trade for Reggie Bush is questionable, as he has never shown the potential to be a No. 1 running back. These moves, in no way, improve the Dolphins over their 2010 roster.
Rookies: C Mike Pouncey, RB Daniel Thomas, DT Frank Kearse, CB Jimmy Wilson, RB Charles Clay
The Dolphins will hope that Mike Pouncey plays center in the NFL better than he did at Florida, where botched snaps were a plague throughout the season. Daniel Thomas should get plenty of chances to carry the rock here.
Released: LB Channing Crowder
Overall Grade: C-
The Miami Dolphins' 2011 season will be determined by how well Chad Henne plays at quarterback and what the team can get from newcomers Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas at running back.
I will say the idea of Bush lining up at quarterback in the Wildcat is exciting, but will it be enough to pressure the Jets and Patriots for the division crown?
Most likely not, and Miami will still struggle to stop the more powerful offenses in the NFL.
Additions: QB Donovan McNabb, LB Mark Washington, T Scott Kooistra, WR Devin Aromashodu, WR Michael Jenkins, NT Remi Ayodele, T Charlie Johnson
I do like the move to get Donovan McNabb, especially at such a low risk price. The other signings are a bit...baffling. The Vikings lose Sidney Rice and replace him with Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins?
Rookies: QB Christian Ponder, TE Kyle Rudolph, DT Christan Ballard, CB Brandon Burton, T DeMarcus Love, S Mistral Raymond, C Brandon Fusco, LB Ross Homan, DE D'Aundre Reed, WR Stephen Burton
The Vikings hit on the NFL draft, even if they missed in free agency. Christian Ponder will have time to learn the game before being exposed to the vicious NFC North defenses. Kyle Rudolph, Christian Ballard, Brandon Burton, DeMarcus Love and Ross Homan all have starter-qualities.
Released: S Madieu Williams, DT Jimmy Kennedy
Overall Grade: B
The Vikings will be in good hands while Donovan McNabb mentors Christian Ponder, helped by the presence of Adrian Peterson in the backfield. The offensive line will need work over the years, but they may be good enough in 2011 to keep defenses off McNabb and allow Peterson to break out.
If anything, the defense should carry the Vikings this season.
One major question mark is at defensive end, where the team is trying to replace Ray Edwards with Brian Robison. Time is the only judge here, but I did like Robison coming out of Texas.
New England Patriots
Additions: WR Chad Ochocinco, DT Albert Haynesworth, T Matt Light, DT Stephen Williams, RB Kevin Faulk, RB Sammy Morris, G Logan Mankins, S Brandon McGowan, LB Tracy White
Child, please. The Patriots did the unthinkable by pulling off trades for Ochocinco and Haynesworth within the same 12-hour window. If either player can find motivation where so many veterans have before, the Patriots will be a force in 2011. Or more of a force, since they did lead the league in wins last year.
Rookies: T Nate Solder, CB Ras-I Dowling, QB Ryan Mallett, RB Shane Vereen, RB Stevan Ridley, T Marcus Cannon, CB Malcolm Williams, TE Lee Smith, LB Markell Carter
The Patriots' draft class will have the luxury of not needing to play this year. At all. Not one player from this impressive draft class should be asked to play early in the season, barring injury. This will give the rookies time to learn the NFL and the Patriots' playbook before being thrust into the lineup.
Released: DT Ty Warren, LB Tully Banta-Cain, DE Marcus Stroud, T Nick Kaczur, TE Alge Crumpler, CB Tony Carter
Overall Grade: A
I have few rules in life, but one of them is to never doubt Bill Belichick. No, seriously.
The Patriots made the offseason their little girl, trading for Pro Bowlers Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth and giving pennies on the dollar if the two can pan out in New England. Early signs are good.
The biggest coup was re-signing guard Logan Mankins to his one-year franchise tender. Mankins missed seven games in 2010 due to a holdout. His presence will help power an offense that figures to run the ball heavily in 2011.
No matter who your favorite team is, you must realize the Patriots are the clear-cut favorite in the AFC.
New Orleans Saints
Additions: CB Fabian Washington, WR Courtney Roby, S Roman Harper, T Jermon Bushrod, WR Lance Moore, LB Scott Shanle, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, LB Danny Clark, RB Darren Sproles, B Korey Hall, LB Will Herring, LB Curtis Johnson, CB Leigh Torrence, S Chris Reis, S Pierson Prioleau, LB Clint Ingram, G Carl Nicks
The Saints targetted many of their own free agents this year, a wise thing to do considering the sheer number of unsigned players from the 2010 team. Keeping guard Carl Nicks, who just might be the best in the NFL, was a great one-year signing.
Rookies: LB Martez Wilson, RB Mark Ingram, DE Cameron Jordan (unsigned), LB Nate Bussey, DE Greg Romeus, CB Johnny Patrick
I am still not a huge fan of this draft class, as I don't think Cameron Jordan will be an ideal fit at defensive end here, but the class should feature two rookie starters and maybe a third in Martez Wilson.
Released: LB Stanley Arnoux, LB Jason Kyle, CB Randall Gay
Overall Grade: B
The New Orleans Saints dominated free agency by re-signing their own key players, moving an overpaid running back in Reggie Bush and making small, subtle signings that will make a big impact on their roster.
The Saints were good enough last year to finish second in the talented NFC South—a position we expect them to hold again this year as long as the team can stay healthy.
New York Giants
Additions: DE Mathias Kiwanuka, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, G David Baas, G Kevin Boothe, TE Bear Pascoe, T Jamon Meredith, P Steve Weatherford, TE Ben Patrick, QB David Carr
Keeping Mathias Kiwanuka and Ahmad Bradshaw were both smart signings, but David Baas is a downgrade from Shaun O'Hara at center, or at best, a push. Same for Bear Pascoe or Ben Patrick over Kevin Boss at tight end.
Rookies: DT Marvin Austin, WR Jerrel Jernigan, T James Brewer, LB Greg Jones, S Tyler Sash, LB Jacquian Williams, RB Da'Rel Scott, CB Prince Amukamara (unsigned)
The Giants may have fumbled through free agency, but at least the draft class was good. Amukamara and Austin are both good enough to start in Week 1.
Released: DT Rocky Bernard, G Shawn Andrews, RB Madison Hedgecock, C Shaun O'Hara, G Rich Seubert
Overall Grade: B
It helps that New York was able to re-sign Bradshaw and Kiwanuka after many believed they would be on their way out of town. How they handle the Osi Umenyiora contract situation could leave a big mark on the franchise for years to come.
New York Jets
Additions: WR Santonio Holmes, DT Kenrick Ellis, P Chris Bryan, QB Mark Brunell, WR Plaxico Burress, S Eric Smith, K Nick Folk, CB Donald Strickland, CB Antonio Cromartie
Rookies: DT Muhammad Wilkerson, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Scotty McKnight, RB Bilal Powell, QB Greg McElroy
The Jets found a big defensive end for their 3-4 defense, but they failed to draft any pass-rushers. I do like Bilal Powell as a surprise contributor this year.
Released: QB Erik Ainge, CB Will Billingsley
Overall Grade: D
How have the Jets replaced Braylon Edwards, or Brad Smith, on offense? If you think Plaxico Burress is the answer after he spent the last two seasons in prison, think again.
And how about on defense? Who will rush the passer? Will Antonio Cromartie be happy with his leftovers-style contract?
There are too many questions in New York this season, no matter how exciting the coach is. I expect a letdown in New York this season.
Free Agents: S Michael Huff, QB Trent Edwards, T Khalif Barnes, LB Jarvis Moss, LB Jon Condo
The Raiders did nothing, at all, to get better here. They re-signed an overrated safety and role players, most of them to one-year deals. Could Oakland be playing for the Andrew Luck lottery?
Rookies: T Joseph Barksdale, C Stefen Wisniewski, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, WR Denarius Moore, TE Richard Gordon, CB Chimdi Chekwa, TE David Ausberry, RB Taiwan Jones
After a strong draft in 2010, the Raiders were back to their old selves in 2011. The team landed a quality offensive lineman with Wisniewski, and then, the wheels fell off, and they began drafting speed player after speed player.
Released: G Robert Gallery, S Quentin Scott
Overall Grade: F
What is troubling is that I like the Raiders to do fairly well this year. I would expect nothing less than eight wins. They'll have to do that with a roster that is, right now, worse than their 2010 edition.
Additions: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DE Jason Babin, WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, TE Donald Lee, QB Vince Young, DT Cullen Jenkins, LB Akeem Jordan, G Evan Mathis
Grade: A+++, plus
The Eagles pulled of the coup of the century with their combined moves in free agency and trades this summer. I'm not even sure I could convince the computer to allow these trades in Madden 2012. Andy Reid, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman deserve a big, fat raise.
Rookies: G Danny Watkins (unsigned), LB Greg Lloyd, RB Stanley Havili, LB Brian Rolle, C Jason Kelce, G Julian Vandervelde, RB Dion Lewis, K Alex Henery, LB Casey Matthews, CB Curtis Marsh, S Jaiquawn Jarrett
Thankfully, the Eagles' draft was very average, otherwise we might as well cancel the season and give the boys in Philly the trophy.
Danny Watkins might start as a rookie and look for the three linebackers to all see major playing time.
Released: RB Noel Devine, DE Jeremy Clark, CB Gerard Lawson, RB Leonard Weaver
Overall Grade: A+
Even as I type this tonight, having read the Eagles' transactions beforehand, I still cannot believe the haul they were able to bring in through free agency. It's really quite amazing.
Not only did the Eagles sign the best unrestricted free agent on the market in Nnamdi Asomugha, they also traded for a top-15 cornerback and got a second-round pick as part of the deal. To top it off, they added stud defensive linemen in Babin and Jenkins.
The offense did not need help, but it got it anyway in potential role players Higgins, Lee and Mathis. Vince Young may be the wild card here, as the Eagles need insurance in case of a Michael Vick injury. Under Andy Reid, Young will probably turn into Randall Cunningham 2.0.
The Eagles are absolutely loaded. Anything less than a Super Bowl win will be a disappointment.
Free Agents: T Jonathan Scott, T Willie Colon, CB Ike Taylor, K Shaun Suisham, RB Mewelde Moore, CB William Gay, DT Chris Hoke
The Steelers, like their Super Bowl opponents the Green Bay Packers, did little to improve through free agency or trades. Instead, they chose to save their money for next year and re-sign role players to short-term deals.
The only major move was re-signing Ike Taylor. He is the team's best cornerback.
Rookies: DE Cameron Heyward, T Marcus Gilbert, CB Cortez Allen, LB Chris Carter, G Keith Williams, RB Baron Batch
The Steelers flew under the radar all offseason, with their 2011 draft class setting the tone. There is no one amazing here, just solid players who will all contribute at the next level.
Released: WR Antwaan Randle El, T Max Starks
Overall Grade: B
The defending AFC champions have done little to improve a roster that was loaded with talent during the 2010 season.
Pittsburgh is banking on seeing 16 games from Ben Roethlisberger, a stronger running game and a smart defense that can eliminate errors and play with less-than-stellar athletes at some positions, while lining up absolute studs at others.
Pittsburgh will once again be in the running for a No. 1 seed and a Super Bowl run.
San Diego Chargers
Free Agents: QB Billy Volek, C Scott Mruczkowski, RB Mike Tolbert, S Bob Sanders, TE Randy McMichael, WR Vincent Jackson, WR Kelley Washington, LB Antwan Barnes, CB Dante Hughes, DE Jacques Cesaire, LB Takeo Spikes, T Jeromey Clary, LB Travis LaBoy
The Chargers went for quantity over quality this summer, choosing to re-sign many of their own free agents before dipping into the unsigned pool. The addition of Bob Sanders and Travis LaBoy could be very good if both players can stay healthy.
This is a solid, deep, free-agent class. You can't argue against moves like this.
Rookies: CB Shareece Wright, T Steve Schilling, LB Jonas Mouton, RB Jordan Todman, CB Marcus Gilchrist, Corey Liuget (unsigned)
I really did not like the Chargers draft class. It's further complicated by the fact that first-rouder Corey Liuget is still unsigned. The Chargers defense is a poor fit for Liuget's talent as a three-technique, penetrating tackle, instead they'll use him as a 5-tech anchor at end. Look at what Glenn Dorsey has done in Kansas City for a preview of Liuget in the 3-4.
Released: WR Buster Davis, TE Kris Wilson, LB Jyles Tucker, LB Brandon Lang, CB Donald Strickland
Overall Grade: C
San Diego did a much better job in re-signing their own players than they did in drafting new ones. The talent level on the Chargers' roster continues to drop due to poor drafting.
San Francisco 49ers
Free Agents: QB Alex Smith, K David Akers, LB Larry Grant, LB Antwan Applewhite, DE Ray McDonald, S Madieu Williams
Keeping Alex Smith and missing out on the best cornerbacks available puts the 49ers way behind the eight-ball this season. The good news is that they should be in the running for a very high draft pick.
Rookies: LB Aldon Smith, QB Colin Kaepernick, CB Curtis Holcomb, G Mike Person, S Colin Jones, WR Ronald Johnson, RB Kendall Hunter, CB Chris Culliver
Aldon Smith seemed like a reach at the time, but time will tell soon enough if he was worthy of the No. 7 overall pick. Other than Smith, Kendall Hunter may be the most likely to see the field in 2011, as the remaining players are all developmental guys.
Released: CB Nate Clements, K Joe Nedney, C Eric Heitmann
Overall Grade: D
The 49ers may field a team in 2011 very similar to the 2010 edition of this team, which means another 6-10 record is not out of the question.
Trusting Alex Smith for one more year seems like a worthless transaction. What's more troubling is that the team cut cornerback Nate Clements, and to date, has signed no one to replace him.
Getting better at cornerback and nose tackle will be priorities for the rest of the offseason.
Additions: K Brandon Coutu, DT Junior Siavii, G Robert Gallery, WR Sidney Rice, QB Tarvaris Jackson, DT Alan Branch, DT Brandon Mebane, LB Leroy Hill, LB Matt McCoy, CB Kelly Jennings
Rookies: T James Carpenter, G John Moffitt, CB Byron Maxwell, LB K.J. Wright, WR Kris Durham, DE Lazarius Levingston, CB Richard Sherman, LB Malcolm Smith, S Mark LeGree
I hated the Seahawks' draft in April, and I still do in August. The team reached for both tackle James Carpenter and guard John Moffitt. What's more, they failed to pick up a cornerback—a position of need.
Released: LB Lofa Tatupu, G Stacy Andrews
Overall Grade: C
The Seattle Seahawks made waves with their signing of wide receiver Sidney Rice, but who is going to throw him the football?
The team has Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson, neither of whom scares opposing defenses.
The 'Hawks may be better on defense, but losing middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to a contract dispute seemed like an unnecessary move before the season.
St. Louis Rams
Free Agents: CB Al Harris, LB Zac Diles, OG Harvey Dahl, DT Justin Bannan, WR Mike Sims-Walker, S Quintin Mikell
Picking up Al Harris and Quintin Mikell will make the defense better, as will grabbing a thumper like Zac Diles at linebacker.
The best moves were the signing of guard Harvey Dahl to round out what is now a very good front five and the move to get wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Sims-Walker has the talent of a No. 1 wide receiver, something the Rams need badly.
Rookies: DE Robert Quinn, CB Jonathan Nelson, LB Jabara Williams, CB Mikail Baker, S Jermale Hines, WR Greg Salas, WR Austin Pettis, TE Lance Kendricks
The Rams grabbed the best pass-rushing defensive end in the class and perhaps the most athletic tight end. Two picks that went under the radar which could produce huge dividends were that of Austin Pettis and Greg Salas.
Released: LB Larry Grant
Overall Grade: A-
The Rams got much better this offseason, including the addition of Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator.
If the Rams do not win the NFC West, fans and coaches should be disappointed. They added the missing pieces this offseason to make a run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Free Agents: P Michael Koenen, T Jeremy Trueblood, G Davin Joseph, LB Quincy Black, LB Adam Hayward
The Buccaneers decided to not enter free agency, instead opting to sign their own players to new deals. This strategy could pay off if roster cuts are made and quality players enter the market. It could also backfire if the Bucs find the free-agent market dry.
Rookies: LB Mason Foster, TE Daniel Hardy, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE Da'Quan Bowers, TE Luke Stocker, S Ahmad Black, CB Anthony Gaitor
If Da'Quan Bowers can get healthy, he will be a major steal from this draft class. Both Bowers and Adrian Clayborn have a chance to start, as do Mason Foster and Luke Stocker.
Overall Grade: B
Tampa Bay worked the NFL draft well, picking up two defensive ends and five other players capable of contributing early on. If Tampa Bay can continue to develop the young talent already on the roster, they will be in line for a playoff berth.
Additions: TE Daniel Graham, LB Barrett Ruud, DT Shaun Smith, QB Matt Hasselbeck
Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, the rest of their signings were miserable too. Even Barrett Ruud is a downgrade from Stephen Tulloch.
Rookies: LB Akeem Ayers, QB Jake Locker, S Tommie Campbell, DE Karl Klug, DT Jurrell Casey, DT Zach Clayton, T Byron Stingily, RB Jamie Harper, LB Colin McCarthy
One thing that I did like in Tennessee was the draft class. Jake Locker is a good player worth developing, but the real steals were Ayers, Casey and McCarthy. All three look like future starters on defense.
Released: QB Vince Young, DT Tony Brown, DE Kareem Brown
Overall Grade: C
The Titans may have made a huge mistake in signing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to a multi-year deal at 36 years old. The team hopes to work Jake Locker in as soon as possible. Either way, wins will be at a premium in Nashville this year.
Tennessee does have a good defense still, but playing without defensive line coach Jim Washburn and his project Jason Babin will be tough. Picking up Barrett Ruud will help, but the team still has many question marks scattered over the roster.
Additions: RB Tim Hightower, T Jammal Brown, T Willie Smith, S O.J. Atogwe, WR Santana Moss, DT Barry Cofield, WR Donte' Stallworth, QB Kellen Clemens, WR Jabar Gaffney, CB Josh Wilson, P Sav Rocca, DE Stephen Bowen, G Chris Chester, CB Philip Buchanon, T Zach Strief
If you cannot sign the best free agents available, you might as well sign a ton of them. That was the approach in Washington, and it may work. The Redskins added at least nine starters in free agency and a good number of rotational players and key backups.
Rookies: DT Chris Neild, LB Markus White, G Maurice Hurt, CB Brandyn Thompson, WR Aldrick Robinson, RB Evan Royster, WR Niles Paul, S DeJon Gomes, RB Roy Helu, WR Leonard Hankerson, DE Jarvis Jenkins, LB Ryan Kerrigan
As time has gone by I've become more of a fan here, but that is largely due to the free agency moves made covering up holes in the draft class. Quarterback is still a need that the Redskins should have addressed, but Mike Shanahan has earned the right to name his starter.
Released: C Casey Rabach, DE Phillip Daniels, DT Maake Kemoeatu, RB Chad Simpson, RB Andre Brown, WR Roydell Williams, P Josh Bidwell, T Mike Williams
Overall Grade: B
The Washington Redskins definitely got better this offseason with signings like that of O.J. Atogwe, Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield. They also made a smart trade for power runner Tim Hightower and found depth players to fill in key spots.
Here's the deal...John Beck is still their starting quarterback. I cannot take any team seriously as long as that's happening.