Grading Every NFL Team's Free-Agency Performance

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 21, 2019

Grading Every NFL Team's Free-Agency Performance

0 of 32

    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Peak free agency for the NFL's 99th offseason is over, and more than 200 players signed contracts with a combined value of $2.4 billion in the last nine days.

    More moves are coming, and they'll matter, but those transactions will be part of a second wave that doesn't shape rosters as much as those in the early stages of free agency.

    With that in mind, it's time to issue report cards on the free-agency performance of every NFL team with the following grade scale:

    A+: It was pretty much perfect.

    A: The good drastically outweighed the bad.

    B: The good slightly outweighed the bad.

    C: The bad slightly outweighed the good.

    D: The bad drastically outweighed the good.

    F: Anything that could go wrong did go wrong.

    Here's how the class fared.

         

Arizona Cardinals: D

1 of 32

    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    Still rebuilding after a roster overhaul and a three-win season, the Arizona Cardinals had one job: Add as much support as possible for young quarterback Josh Rosen (or Kyler Murray, if they go that route). Arizona can afford to build up its defense through the draft, but the offense needs experience and proven talent. The offensive line was a bloody mess last season.

              

    What they did right

    The Cardinals acquired solid and reasonably priced offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they added depth at guard by signing veteran J.R. Sweezy.

            

    Where they went wrong

    They focused far too much on defense. The contract they gave linebacker Jordan Hicks isn't bad, but that $8.5 million average annual salary could have gone to a stronger guard like Rodger Saffold or Billy Turner. Why spend even a dime on 36-year-old Terrell Suggs? And they're inexplicably giving cornerback Robert Alford $7.5 million a year on the wrong side of 30. New pass-catchers Charles Clay and Kevin White aren't likely to do much to help Rosen or Murray either. It's unclear what general manager Steve Keim is thinking.

           

    What they should do now

    The rub with using a first-round pick on Murray is you'd better get a first-rounder back for Rosen. If not, you're setting Murray up to fail immediately. The Cardinals have to use a first-round pick on a receiver, tight end or offensive lineman who can make an impact right off the bat.

Atlanta Falcons: B-

2 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Atlanta Falcons weren't flush with salary-cap space entering free agency, so the goal should have been to keep as many key in-house free agents as possible. In a perfect world, they'd also bolster an offensive line that was weak at both guard spots.

             

    What they did right

    They hit key defensive tackle Grady Jarrett with the franchise tag and brought in veterans James Carpenter and Jamon Brown to compete with Brandon Fusco, Wes Schweitzer and Sean Harlow. That's better than nothing when you can't afford someone like Rodger Saffold. The Falcons checked the most important boxes this month.

             

    Where they went wrong

    They lost Robert Alford as well as Bruce Irvin, Brooks Reed and Brian Poole on defense, and they could miss departed running back Tevin Coleman. They might have been able to land a better guard had they been able to work out a long-term deal with Jarrett. And they also might have been smart to capitalize on the emergence of Calvin Ridley at wide receiver by shopping veteran Mohamed Sanu, but we're nitpicking.

           

    What they should do now

    Shop Sanu as well as the disappointing Vic Beasley, and use early draft picks on an offensive lineman and one of the many superb pass-rushers in this class.

Baltimore Ravens: D

3 of 32

    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    Opposing defensive coordinators will spend plenty of time this offseason preparing for new Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, so Baltimore had to go out of its way to add support for the exciting second-year signal-caller while ideally keeping the heart of its strong defense together.

             

    What they did right

    They upgraded slightly in the secondary by releasing Eric Weddle and signing Earl Thomas. At the very least, they got younger there (Weddle is 34, Thomas is about to turn 30). If Thomas can return to where he was in his prime, that'd be a coup.

          

    Where they went wrong

    It's not pretty. I understand why they didn't keep both, but the Ravens had the money to retain C.J. Mosley or Za'Darius Smith in the linebacker corps. Smith is an emerging pass-rusher, and the deal he signed with the Green Bay Packers could have been matched or beaten. That's a shame considering the departures of Weddle and veteran leader Terrell Suggs, both of which are more understandable. Veteran receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree are also gone, Baltimore didn't improve the offensive line and new running back Mark Ingram may not have much left in the tank.

           

    What they should do now

    The Ravens have some promising young tight ends, but the receiving corps has again become a joke, and they need to bolster the interior offensive line. They also need to patch up the defensive front seven. They can't expect to do all of that in the draft and keep up with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in the AFC North, so new GM Eric DeCosta will have to find some gems in the next wave of free agency.

Buffalo Bills: B+

4 of 32

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    Just like the Cardinals and Ravens, this offseason for the Buffalo Bills has to be about adding support for their second-year franchise quarterback. Ideally, a team with plenty of salary-cap space would also be able to find something to help give the defense more of an identity.

            

    What they did right

    The Bills made it almost entirely about Josh Allen. New arrivals Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe and Spencer Long bring much-needed experience and depth to Allen's offensive line without breaking the bank, while incoming receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown should complement each other well alongside Zay Jones. Kudos to Buffalo for prioritizing well.

           

    Where they went wrong

    The Bills had the money to do more on defense. They still do, in fact, and they just might. But for now that costs them points, as does a weird approach at running back, where they kept old men LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory and then added older man Frank Gore. That money could have been better spent elsewhere, especially because they could save $6.4 million by parting ways with the declining McCoy.

          

    What they should do now

    They basically ignored a defense that was good but not great last season and still lacks a standout player, but this draft is loaded with promising defensive playmakers, and Buffalo is likely to go that route with its No. 9 overall selection.

Carolina Panthers: B-

5 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    With franchise quarterback Cam Newton recovering from shoulder surgery, the Carolina Panthers had to buy some insurance at the position while also shoring things up for whoever is under center. That probably starts with replacing freshly retired center Ryan Kalil. A defense that didn't shine enough last year could have used another playmaker, but the Panthers entered the new league year tight for cash.

            

    What they did right

    They replaced Kalil with one of the best offensive linemen on the market in Matt Paradis, and they were able to bring back promising offensive tackle Daryl Williams on a one-year prove-it deal as he battles back from a significant knee injury. They also replaced Julius Peppers with veteran pass-rusher Bruce Irvin at a team-friendly rate.

           

    Where they went wrong

    Veteran receiver Devin Funchess got away and has yet to be replaced, and they might miss the leadership Thomas Davis provided alongside Peppers on defense. But what's most disappointing is they're sticking with Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen behind Newton at quarterback, even though those guys have started a combined two games.

           

    What they should do now

    The ship has probably sailed on that backup quarterback situation, but the Panthers could still add a veteran receiver like Michael Crabtree or Jordy Nelson in the second wave of free agency. Beyond that, it's time to find the next game-changing pass-rusher in a draft that should give them that opportunity.

Chicago Bears: D

6 of 32

    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Chicago Bears have to avoid taking a step backward after a breakout season, which isn't uncommon in this league. The key there might have been to maintain continuity in the secondary, where vital defensive backs Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan were both slated to hit free agency.

            

    What they did right

    They added a couple of affordable weapons to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's arsenal in wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and running back Mike Davis. And when they lost Amos and Callahan, they at least replaced them with solid veterans Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine.

            

    Where they went wrong

    The Bears should have found a way to bring back one of those two defensive backs because they undoubtedly downgraded in both spots. And for now, the Davis signing is a bit odd because they've yet to unload Jordan Howard and obviously already have Tarik Cohen. This was always going to be a quiet offseason in Chicago, but this will be viewed as ugly if Amos and Callahan excel in Green Bay and Denver, respectively.

          

    What they should do now

    *Shoulder shrug* They have just enough money to add some depth where needed, but without a pick in the first two rounds of the draft, the Bears have to hope this roster is good enough—and includes enough improving talent—to make another playoff run in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals: F

7 of 32

    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Cincinnati Bengals had to fish or cut bait. Either commit to a rebuild and part ways with key veterans Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, or go all-in and give those guys stronger supporting casts. Either direction would have made sense.

            

    What they did right

    They added another piece to a weak offensive line by signing guard John Miller away from the Bills.

            

    Where they went wrong

    They kept Dalton, Green, Atkins and Dunlap at a combined average annual value of $60.9 million but didn't use any of their cap space to improve the pieces around them. They released the troubled but talented Vontaze Burfict, they lost tight end Tyler Kroft to Buffalo and they overpaid to keep below-average starters Preston Brown and Bobby Hart. Another stagnant offseason indicates the Bengals seem satisfied with being the worst team in the AFC North.

           

    What they should do now

    They should bring back improving slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard and then improve the offensive line in the draft.

Cleveland Browns: A-

8 of 32

    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    After taking a huge step forward in 2018, it was time for the Cleveland Browns to start adding more experience to a roster loaded with young talent from the early rounds of recent drafts. This offseason had to be about solidifying the product from a long and highly examined rebuild.

             

    What they did right

    Pretty much everything. The acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. gives young quarterback Baker Mayfield one of the best receiving groups in the NFL, while Kareem Hunt is a low-financial-risk complement in the offensive backfield. Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon bring much-needed experience to the defensive line, which should make life easier on Myles Garrett. Released linebacker Jamie Collins was expendable, and that move helped them raise money for the aforementioned ventures.

            

    Where they went wrong

    They've yet to find a reliable left tackle to protect Mayfield's blind side, while the Beckham trade hurt the secondary with the loss of safety Jabrill Peppers. He won't be easy to replace, especially considering the Browns don't have a draft pick in the top 48. And there's always a risk a dude like Beckham creates friction in the locker room. Still, the Browns got a hell of a lot better on paper.

            

    What they should do now

    They still need a potential stalwart left tackle for Mayfield or at least a replacement for guard Kevin Zeitler if they move 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett out there. Greg Robinson isn't a good long-term option. They should sign Donald Penn, who was recently released by the Oakland Raiders and has multiple Pro Bowls on his resume.

Dallas Cowboys: B+

9 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Dallas Cowboys couldn't afford steps backward. That means top pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence had to remain on the roster after a season under the franchise tag. With several big bills coming due, the rest of the focus should be in-house.

             

    What they did right

    The Cowboys kept Lawrence with another franchise tag, which means the young core from a 2018 playoff team remains intact. They also replaced departed wide receiver Cole Beasley with solid veteran Randall Cobb. In this case, they actually get some credit for remaining conservative on the open market. They'll soon have to talk contract with key players Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Jaylon Smith, and they've admitted that keeping that group together will require creativity.

             

    Where they went wrong

    That Lawrence tag was so financially prohibitive that it might have prevented the Cowboys from landing a superstar safety like Earl Thomas. They lose some points for failing to strike a long-term deal, and tight end Jason Witten's new contract is a little silly as well.

           

    What they should do now

    This would probably become an A grade if they were to find a way to sign Eric Berry or another starting-caliber defensive back. But with the heart of free agency over and the Cowboys without a first-round draft pick, their attention can shift toward those long-term deals.

Denver Broncos: B

10 of 32

    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Case Keenum experiment didn't pan out, so the Denver Broncos were again tasked with finding a solution at quarterback. They also needed to improve the offensive line and the secondary.

            

    What they did right

    New right tackle Ja'Wuan James is a high-potential signing that upgrades the line, while they're suddenly stacked at the cornerback position thanks to the additions of Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan. The defense has been rebuilt in quick and impressive fashion, while the offense should be better as well.

          

    Where they went wrong

    They replaced Keenum with Joe freakin' Flacco, who at the age of 34 has never been elected to a Pro Bowl and is the second-lowest-rated qualified passer in the league since 2013. It's a joke that they're paying him $18.5 million to start, but that's their only big mistake thus far. I won't deck them for losing Matt Paradis or Shaquil Barrett because those guys had become somewhat expendable with Connor McGovern and Bradley Chubb on board.

            

    What they should do now

    The Broncos should see about landing Kyler Murray (they won't); if not, they should strongly consider chasing Josh Rosen or Dwayne Haskins. They need a promising young option under center.

Detroit Lions: A-

11 of 32

    Harry How/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The time had come for the Detroit Lions to add a high-impact defensive player in place of defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. They also needed another reliable wide receiver and some interior offensive line help for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and some more talent across the board on defense would help them keep up with the competition in the tough NFC North.

            

    What they did right

    They spent big bucks on new edge-defender Trey Flowers, but he might have been the best player on the open market, and he has plenty of room to grow. His versatility should improve the defense immensely, while the addition of slot cornerback Justin Coleman helps as well. That D has a lot of strong pieces, and Stafford did get some help with the additions of pass-catchers Danny Amendola and Jesse James. The Lions also deserve credit for breaking up with the tired and unreliable Ansah. All in all, a pretty productive run.

            

    Where they went wrong

    They basically ignored a spotty interior offensive line. The T.J. Lang era is over, while the jury is still out on Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow inside. That cost them a solid A grade.

          

    What they should do now

    Detroit should strongly consider using an early draft pick on an NFL-ready offensive lineman.

Green Bay Packers: A

12 of 32

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Green Bay Packers entered the 2019 offseason in need of big changes and fresh blood on defense, especially on the edge and in the secondary. They also needed an upgrade in at least one guard spot and could have used better depth at wide receiver for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

           

    What they did right

    They spent huge on three of the best defensive players on the market, addressing major needs in the process. New edge-rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith are big boys who are both on the rise at the age of 26, while new free safety Adrian Amos is one of the best young defensive backs in the league. All three will play major roles in pass defense—an area in which Green Bay frequently struggled in 2018. They also addressed the interior offensive line with the addition of guard Billy Turner. It was an uncharacteristic yet impressive performance on the open market.

           

    Where they went wrong

    Turner was overpaid (four years, $28 million). They'd have been better off spending a few extra bucks on Rodger Saffold. They lost Randall Cobb and didn't address the wide receiver or tight end positions.

          

    What they should do now

    They still have the money to bring in Michael Crabtree or former Packer Jared Cook. If they don't go that route, they should use one of their three top-45 picks on a pass-catcher who can make a difference immediately.

Houston Texans: D-

13 of 32

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The Houston Texans have to find a way to better protect young franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. Everything else is secondary. Literally—the defensive backfield needed a bit of a makeover this offseason as well, especially as Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson hit free agency.

            

    What they did right

    They had little choice but to bring back stud pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney on the franchise tag. While they lost Mathieu and Jackson, they replaced them with starting-caliber defensive backs Bradley Roby and Tashaun Gipson.

            

    Where they went wrong

    The Texans downgraded at both corner and safety, Clowney's $16 million franchise tag number didn't make it easy to operate and they've yet to do anything to improve the offensive line. That could change if they bring in Donald Penn, but they should have found a way to be in on Trent Brown, Ja'Wuan James, Ty Nsekhe or Daryl Williams. It's not as though they're out of cash.

           

    What they should do now

    They have to sign Penn and install him at left tackle before setting up a competition between Julie'n Davenport, Seantrel Henderson, Martinas Rankin and an early-round rookie at right tackle.

Indianapolis Colts: D

14 of 32

    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    Now that there's no concern regarding the quarterback and the offensive line, an Indianapolis Colts team with oodles of money to spend would have been smart to seek impact defenders and reliable receivers on the open market.

           

    What they did right

    Practically nothing, which is astonishing considering they're the most cap-rich team in the league. They did, however, bring back top corner Pierre Desir and add Devin Funchess in support of T.Y. Hilton at wide receiver. The offense is in slightly better shape than it was last year, which is why they don't get an F.

            

    Where they went wrong

    They could have done so much more. Super Bowl champions aren't built entirely in free agency, and you can respect that general manager Chris Ballard says the team has "a very strict criterion of what we want to bring in." Still, the Colts had money to burn. Free agents like Trey Flowers, Dee Ford, Za'Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, Tyrann Mathieu and Lamarcus Joyner all could have made a massive impact on that improving but still flawed defense.

            

    What they should do now

    At least sign a safety to pair with Malik Hooker. They haven't even re-signed 2018 starter Clayton Geathers, while Eric Berry and Tre Boston remain on the market. And maybe they can get a bargain on a veteran pass-rusher like Ziggy Ansah or Justin Houston. At least they have two picks in the top 34, and this draft is loaded with blue-chip front-seven defenders.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B

15 of 32

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The No. 1 task for the Jacksonville Jaguars has been obvious for quite some time. They need a reliable, consistent quarterback who won't interfere with a Super Bowl-caliber team's ability to make a championship run. They could also use better pass-catchers and more support on offense, but the quarterback had to be the focus for a team with limited cap space.

             

    What they did right

    The Jaguars signed a quarterback with a Super Bowl MVP, a Pro Bowl and the third-highest-rated season in NFL history on his resume. While questions remain about Nick Foles' ability to experience sustained success, the fact is he was the best option available, and they got him for a reasonable price at $22 million a year.

           

    Where they went wrong

    The Jags had to spend most of March cleaning up messes made in prior offseasons. Foles replaces Blake Bortles, who will still cost them $16.5 million in 2019, and they also paid $4 million to part ways with expensive veteran Malik Jackson. They did what they could by adding Geoff Swaim to the tight end corps and Cedric Ogbuehi to the offensive line, but they lose points for not finding a way to add a receiver like Devin Funchess, Golden Tate, Adam Humphries, John Brown or Cole Beasley to the mix.

           

    What they should do now

    They could still find room for Michael Crabtree or even Dez Bryant, but an alternative strategy might be to use their strong draft capital to land one of the top receivers in this rookie class.

Kansas City Chiefs: B+

16 of 32

    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Kansas City Chiefs had to shake up a defense that, despite being expensive and experienced, ranked 31st in the NFL last season. It appears they knew that.

              

    What they did right

    Gone are top edge-defenders Dee Ford and Justin Houston as well as superstar safety Eric Berry. All three had become too pricey, Houston is fading and Berry has been battling injuries the last two years. Kudos to the Chiefs for moving on, saving money with experienced front-seven replacement Alex Okafor and having confidence in their drafting abilities (2018 second-rounder Breeland Speaks will likely move into a starting role). They also brought in the younger Tyrann Mathieu to replace Berry, which could work out wonderfully. Obviously parting ways with two top-notch pass-rushers could backfire, but the Chiefs also know Chris Jones is a hell of a player who will need a new contract next offseason.

            

    Where they went wrong

    They lose out on an A grade because Bashaud Breeland is a downgrade from Steven Nelson at cornerback and they could miss center Mitch Morse. Nelson is now a Steeler, Morse is now a Bill and the Chiefs had the money to keep at least one of them.

           

    What they should do now

    They likely wouldn't have parted ways with both Ford and Houston unless they fully planned on using that first-round pick on one of this draft's tremendously promising pass-rushers. If that's the strategy and it pans out, GM Brett Veach could look like a genius.

Los Angeles Chargers: A

17 of 32

    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    With the roster already in tremendous shape, the Los Angeles Chargers had to focus on limiting the damage done by potential vultures on the open market. Their top four defensive tackles made it to free agency, as well as wide receiver Tyrell Williams and cornerback Jason Verrett.

           

    What they did right

    They didn't panic or overpay. Williams jumped to the Oakland Raiders on an absurdly expensive deal, while Verrett also moved upstate to join the San Francisco 49ers. But the Chargers should be cool with that because they already have three high-quality receivers and three high-quality corners. They brought back one of the defensive tackles, veteran Brandon Mebane, on a reasonably priced deal, and the other three remain unsigned. That should make it easy to re-sign at least one of them at a team-friendly rate, which is ideal for an organization with limited cap space. The Bolts didn't make headlines this month, but they played free agency about as well as they could have.

         

    Where they went wrong

    We're nitpicking, but we would have loved to see them take the money they gave to the 34-year-old Mebane and soon-to-be 36-year-old linebacker Thomas Davis (a combined average annual salary of $10.5 million) and put it into a fund for a game-changing defensive tackle like Ndamukong Suh, who reportedly wants to remain on the West Coast.

         

    What they should do now

    They can find a way to sign Suh anyway because that would make them better on paper than they were last season. They might also want to start considering Philip Rivers successors in the draft.

Los Angeles Rams: B+

18 of 32

    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Los Angeles Rams had to do their best to avoid losing momentum following a Super Bowl season, which was never going to be easy with starters Rodger Saffold, Lamarcus Joyner, Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. all set for free agency.

         

    What they did right

    A team that was low on cap space picked its spots well, smartly prioritizing and re-signing Fowler, who is younger, has more potential and plays a more important position than the others. They also saved a ton of money by swapping out Joyner for Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, and they gained nice depth by adding Clay Matthews and Blake Bortles.

         

    Where they went wrong

    The money they spent on Matthews and Bortles would have been better spent keeping Saffold, who signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Tennessee Titans. Offensive line continuity is crucial, especially with a young team like this. Now the Rams will likely rely on the green Joseph Noteboom this year, and they very well might have to replace left tackle Andrew Whitworth next year.

         

    What they should do now

    They don't have the money to do much more on the open market, but they'd be smart to target one of the draft's many enticing edge-rushers with their first-round pick next month.

Miami Dolphins: C+

19 of 32

    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    Following another losing season, the Miami Dolphins engaged "rebuild mode" this offseason. Considering the shape of their roster as well as the current conditions in the AFC East, that approach made a lot of sense.

          

    What they did right

    They admitted they made a mistake by doubling down on quarterback Ryan Tannehill last offseason, so we won't dock them points for the fact that they're paying Tannehill $18.4 million to play for the Titans in 2019. The key is they finally moved on, and under these circumstances, it's hard to blame them for also moving on from expensive right tackle Ja'Wuan James and aging wide receiver Danny Amendola. The focus now in Miami should be almost entirely on the draft, and signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stopgap for backup money isn't a bad strategy.

          

    Where they went wrong

    They didn't go full rebuild. They raised some money by dumping Tannehill and 32-year-old guard Josh Sitton, but why give a combined $6.8 million a year to Dwayne Allen and Eric Rowe? And why are Robert Quinn, Kenny Stills and Kiko Alonso still on the roster? Those guys won't be part of the next era in Miami, so it's time to move on.

         

    What they should do now

    The Dolphins might still trade Quinn, which could save them more than $11 million. Remember, cap carryover is critical when you're rebuilding, as are draft picks. While we're on the subject, they should consider using the No. 13 overall selection to land a potential franchise quarterback of the future.

Minnesota Vikings: F

20 of 32

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The Minnesota Vikings can't get a do-over on their decision to sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a monster contract last offseason, which means they have to do everything in their power to support Cousins going forward. This offseason, that should have meant making big changes to an abysmal offensive line.

         

    What they did right

    They let Sheldon Richardson and Latavius Murray walk, which is good because they can afford to live without those guys.

         

    Where they went wrong

    The Vikes love to focus on their defense, but even in a down year, it was a top-10 unit last season. It's become apparent that their desire to perfect the D has cost the offense dearly, as Minnesota is one of those teams that seems to think it can get away with having a garbage offensive line. While the Vikings spent an absurd $67.5 million on a five-year contract for linebacker Anthony Barr, veteran Nick Easton defected to the New Orleans Saints, and the guard position continued to be neglected. They could have let Barr walk or released veteran Everson Griffen to raise money for significant changes to the line, but no. In its current form, said unit contains five projected starters who are below average, which is unacceptable even for a cap-strapped franchise that is supposed to be a contender.

         

    What they should do now

    They missed out on Rodger Saffold, and the open-market well is pretty dry at the guard position. They could at least bring back versatile interior offensive lineman Brett Jones, and they should inquire about Donald Penn. If they don't use a first-round pick on an offensive tackle or guard, I give up.

New England Patriots: C

21 of 32

    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots got away with letting several key players walk in free agency last offseason, but that's probably not a sustainable model as quarterback Tom Brady ages. At a certain point your roster becomes too watered-down, even for Brady and Bill Belichick, which is why it was important for the Pats to stop the bleeding this offseason. They also needed to invest in a new weapon for Brady, especially with Rob Gronkowski's future up in the air.

         

    What they did right

    They refused to make Trent Brown the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history, which was smart because Brady's lightning-quick delivery is probably the only reason Brown appeared to perform at a satisfactory level rather than a mediocre level in 2018. He's not good, and that contract he got from the Raiders is comedy. They re-signed Phillip Dorsett and brought in Bruce Ellington at receiver, but it was another quiet March in New England.

         

    Where they went wrong

    They bled a bit too much with the loss of Brown combined with the departures of Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown on defense. That said, they didn't have the money to keep Flowers, and you know they love those compensatory draft picks. They also let Cordarrelle Patterson walk and cut tight end Dwayne Allen, and Chris Hogan still hasn't been re-signed, which again raises concerns about the quality of Brady's pass-catchers.

         

    What they should do now

    They have six of the first 101 picks in the draft, and they ought to get word from Gronkowski and decide on Hogan before that.

New Orleans Saints: B-

22 of 32

    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    When your star quarterback is 40, your only job is to keep the rest of the roster afloat for him. The Saints are trying to keep the championship window ajar for as long as possible, which essentially means they can't afford a rebuild or any sharp steps backward at key positions, particularly those that directly support Drew Brees.

         

    What they did right

    They didn't mess around when veteran center Max Unger retired, signing 26-year-old former Viking Nick Easton almost immediately. They saved money by bringing in Latavius Murray to replace the departed Mark Ingram, who isn't worth what he's getting from the Ravens at the age of 29. It's also amazing they were able to get potential Brees successor Teddy Bridgewater back for a reasonable $7.3 million. The Saints were again smart with their cash without making any backbreaking sacrifices.

         

    Where they went wrong

    They could miss underrated defensive end Alex Okafor, who is only making $5.9 million a year under his new deal with Kansas City. They also lose points for the fact that Andrus Peat's $9.6 million fifth-year option remains on the books. In a perfect world, they'd have signed the 25-year-old Pro Bowl guard to a long-term deal by now.

         

    What they should do now

    They freed up cap space by restructuring Brees' contract, and they could improve this grade by bringing in another pass-rusher and/or pass-catcher. They've already been connected to both Ezekiel Ansah and Jared Cook.

New York Giants: D-

23 of 32

    Tom Canavan/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The New York Giants needed to reload. Not even rebuild, just reload. They needed to work on improving their relationship with superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., they needed to move on from washed-up quarterback Eli Manning and they needed to be selective about who to keep and who not to keep. They needed to consider who was likely to be a part of the next era of Giants football and move on from everybody else. 

         

    What they did right

    They moved on from pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, who wasn't worth his bloated salary, and they got a strong veteran guard in return. Kevin Zeitler can bring more stability to an oft-criticized offensive line, and he's a lot cheaper than Vernon. They also landed an extra first-round pick, another third-round selection and a solid young safety in Jabrill Peppers. All of those pieces can come in handy as they reload. 

              

    Where they went wrong

    The problem is they gave up their most talented young player in exchange for Peppers and those draft picks. Beckham is a special player, and he's only 26 years old. The Giants had him under contract through 2023, and he and 2018 first-round back Saquon Barkley could have become one of the best offensive duos in football. Combined with Zeitler and Will Hernandez on the offensive line and Evan Engram at tight end, that'd be a hell of an environment for a rookie quarterback. But the Giants gave up on one of the most gifted players in football while continuing to pay their dinosaur quarterback $23.2 million at age 38. And then you give $9.4 million a year to Golden Tate? It's disgusting, it's malpractice and it has rightly turned general manager Dave Gettleman into a punchline.

         

    What they should do now

    This is beyond repair for 2019, but at least it should be Manning's final year. Time to draft his successor, as well as the best player available with the other of those two first-round picks. They also need an impact front-end defender, which should be possible with the No. 37 overall selection.

New York Jets: D-

24 of 32

    Cindy Ord/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The cap-rich New York Jets had to exercise self-control while also taking advantage of their financial situation by bolstering support for young quarterback Sam Darnold. On the other side of the ball, the time had come to find a new impact pass-rusher, although that's a pursuit that could certainly wait for the draft. 

         

    What they did right

    They gave up a mere fifth-round pick for versatile veteran guard Kelechi Osemele, who should team up with Brian Winters to make up a decent duo at guard. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    They ignored the rest of the offensive line, leaving big questions at center and right tackle right off the bat. And instead they focused on over-hyped skill-position players like the potentially run-down Le'Veon Bell and the inconsistent Jamison Crowder, both of whom were grossly overpaid. And rather than break the bank on a rising pass-rusher with game-changing ability like Trey Flowers, Dee Ford or Za'Darius Smith, they made off-ball linebacker C.J. Mosley the highest-paid non-pass-rusher in NFL history. Giving premiums to players like Bell and Mosley makes little sense in this pass-happy era, and Crowder's $9.5 million average annual salary is laughable. Golden Tate, Adam Humphries and John Brown all fetched less money elsewhere. The Jets acted as though they'd never experienced free agency before, and it reeked of desperation. 

         

    What they should do now

    They can't afford to miss with that No. 3 overall selection, but in a perfect world they'd trade down and land both a pass-rusher and a pass-catcher or pass-blocker for Darnold's sake. 

Oakland Raiders: B-

25 of 32

    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    Last year, the Oakland Raiders began dramatically retooling their roster under new head coach Jon Gruden. Thus, this offseason had to be about finding key cogs at almost every crucial position except quarterback. Some of that can wait for the draft, but with Derek Carr in his prime and a move to Las Vegas on the horizon, the cap-rich Raiders can't afford to loaf. 

         

    What they did right

    They gave Carr two new exciting receivers in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Both are expensive, but they can make a world of difference for Carr and the Oakland passing game. Brown seems like a natural fit with Gruden, and Williams is a good No. 2 option. The Raiders also added a proven weapon to the secondary by signing safety Lamarcus Joyner, and they brought in Vontaze Burfict at a discounted rate. Finally, they get points for not giving up on Carr, which would have been a mistake considering his track record, his potential and his success late last season. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    They made Trent Brown the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history with a four-year, $66 million deal, even though he was mediocre during his first three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and was only slightly better while benefiting from favorable dynamics in New England in 2018. Donald Penn might be old, but he's good and he was far cheaper. Brown's contract is destined to backfire, and they're also probably overpaying Antonio Brown, Williams and Joyner. 

         

    What they should do now

    They have four top-35 picks in a draft that is loaded with elite defensive players. It's time to swing the bat multiple times in an attempt to find the next Khalil Mack. 

Philadelphia Eagles: C+

26 of 32

    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    The cap-strapped Philadelphia Eagles entered free agency just trying to hold on for dear life. With little money to spend, they had to decide which members of a large group of pending in-house free agents were worth prioritizing. 

         

    What they did right

    They brought cornerback Ronald Darby back on a cheap one-year deal, wisely let good-not-great off-ball linebacker Jordan Hicks leave for big money elsewhere and brought back DeSean Jackson for less than the departed Golden Tate received from the Giants. They also got younger up front on defense by effectively swapping out Michael Bennett with Malik Jackson. None of these victories are large, but a win's a win. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    Malik Jackson could become a negative if he's declining as his 2018 numbers in Jacksonville would suggest. And with Bennett gone, they overpaid Brandon Graham, who brings plenty of pressure but isn't a finisher. They've also yet to address their running back depth chart, which has become a major weakness of late, and they have a hole at left guard that remains unaddressed while they focused on patching up their own house.

         

    What they should do now

    They have enough wiggle room to pull the trigger on a deal for a running back like LeSean McCoy, Jerick McKinnon, Duke Johnson or Jordan Howard, and they have three top-60 draft picks with which they can address needs at guard, defensive end and potentially even left tackle (assuming Jason Peters isn't Benjamin Button).

Pittsburgh Steelers: D

27 of 32

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The Pittsburgh Steelers made mistakes to wind up in sticky situations with both Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but their job this month was to embrace the end of that era, focus on the talent they already have at running back and wide receiver and get as much as they could in return for Brown. And in a perfect world, they'd also improve a vulnerable secondary. 

         

    What they did right

    They added solid cornerback Steven Nelson at a fair price and are now deep in the defensive backfield. They also signed veteran receiver Donte Moncrief to a reasonable contract after trading Brown to Oakland. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    Brown's departure might have hurt more if not for the presence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Nelson and Moncrief are good pickups for a notoriously conservative team that was low on cap space. But you can't trade away a 30-year-old four-time All-Pro coming off six consecutive 1,200-yard seasons in exchange for a two middle-round draft picks and still earn a good grade. Throw in the weird decision to trade veteran right tackle Marcus Gilbert for next to nothing and this was an ugly month in Pittsburgh. Without Nelson, Moncrief and the decision not to further mess with Bell, this'd be a hard F. 

         

    What they should do now

    Draft an impact receiver in Round 1 and one of this class' many superb pass-rushers in Round 2. 

San Francisco 49ers: F

28 of 32

    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    A San Francisco 49ers squad with plenty of cap space needed to add a top-tier wide receiver for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, while the secondary needed upgrades to increase support for a talented front seven. 

         

    What they did right

    Nothing.

         

    Where they went wrong

    They paid a huge price for one-dimensional defensive end Dee Ford, which was odd considering they have Solomon Thomas and the No. 2 overall selection in a pass-rusher-heavy draft. They also overpaid stay-at-home linebacker Kwon Alexander, who is getting Luke Kuechly money even though he's coming off a major knee injury and has only one Pro Bowl nod on his resume. The only addition to the secondary is Jason Verrett, who hasn't been healthy since Barack Obama was finishing his second term. And why in the world did a team with Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert on the roster give a two-year, $8.5 million deal to Tevin Coleman? The shine is coming off the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan regime quickly. 

         

    What they should do now

    Trade out of the No. 2 overall pick and add a star pass-catcher as well as a standout defensive playmaker in the draft. 

Seattle Seahawks: C

29 of 32

    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The Seattle Seahawks had to stop relying on failed offensive linemen George Fant, Germain Ifedi and Ethan Pocic. They don't know how to draft players at that position well, or at least they haven't since they took Justin Britt back in 2014. They had to try to keep front-seven defenders K.J. Wright and Frank Clark to stop the bleeding on D, but the focus had to be on an offensive line that has been an albatross for much of this decade. 

         

    What they did right

    They kept Wright and Clark, although the latter got franchise-tagged at a cost of $17.1 million. They also upgraded at left guard by signing veteran Mike Iupati. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    They had money to spend, but they generally neglected the line while also losing superstar safety Earl Thomas and talented slot cornerback Justin Coleman on the open market. The defense will remain in decent shape thanks to Clark, Wright and Bobby Wagner, but it's no longer a major strength, and the offensive line could have used someone like Rodger Saffold, Daryl Williams, Mitch Morse or Matt Paradis. Perhaps that could have happened had they gotten a long-term deal done with Clark. That makes two rough Marches in a row for Seattle. 

         

    What they should do now

    They should chase an offensive lineman and/or a defensive back early in the draft, but they have wiggle room to make more moves between now and then. Do they have contact information for Eric Berry and/or Darqueze Dennard?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: D-

30 of 32

    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem committed to Jameis Winston, so they needed to give him as much support as possible in a do-or-die season. The Bucs should have been looking for a new left tackle since Donovan Smith has proved to be a bust. The secondary and the linebacker corps also needed work, which might have been easier had they parted ways with veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.  

         

    What they did right

    They were smart to let Kwon Alexander walk considering the money he got from San Francisco. Newcomers Shaquil Barrett and Deone Bucannon cost less than half of Alexander's 2019 salary combined. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    Not only did they keep McCoy, who is past his prime and hasn't been a game-changer for years, but they also spent $41.3 million on a new contract for Smith. That made it impossible to invest in a decent guard opposite the solid Ali Marpet, and it also made it harder to justify DeSean Jackson's presence on the roster. Jackson is now back in Philly, and the Bucs also lost emerging safety-valve receiver Adam Humphries, which means Winston's supporting cast is worse on paper than it was last year. The Bucs are in rough shape, and it's hard to see light at the end of this tunnel. 

         

    What they should do now

    They should try to trade down from the No. 5 overall pick so they can address the secondary, the receiving corps and the interior offensive line. 

Tennessee Titans: A

31 of 32

    Harry How/Getty Images

    What they needed to do

    Like the Bucs, the Tennessee Titans needed to make life as easy as possible for their potential franchise quarterback in a crucial season by adding as much support as possible on offense. They also needed to try to find a game-changing pass-rusher to give them more of an identity in the defensive front seven.  

         

    What they did right

    A team with two strong offensive tackles and an emerging young No. 1 wide receiver added the best guard on the market in Rodger Saffold and one of the NFL's best young slot receivers in Adam Humphries. As a result, the offense is considerably better than it was at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign. Saffold and Humphries will cost a combined average of $20 million per year, but the Titans had the money, and those are worthwhile investments. 

         

    Where they went wrong

    For years, the Titans defensive front has essentially been underrated interior rusher Jurrell Casey surrounded by a series of recognizable names who lack consistency and rarely stand out. Think DaQuan Jones, Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard. They now have more of the same with their only significant defensive addition, Cameron Wake. He's too limited at the age of 37 to merit a $7.7 million average annual salary. The Titans would be much better off with Justin Houston or Ziggy Ansah, both of whom remain on the open market. 

         

    What they should do now

    They could still afford Houston or Ansah, but they're likely going to target a blue-chip pass-rusher with their first-round pick in April. That isn't a bad plan, either. 

Washington Redskins: D-

32 of 32

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    What they needed to do

    Faced with a tough-luck situation at quarterback, the Washington Redskins had to put together a solid plan B to cover themselves in the likely event that Alex Smith can't return from his leg injury in 2019. With that taking priority, a team with limited funds had to try to merely tread water at other key positions. 

         

    What they did right

    They did the best they could at quarterback, acquiring Case Keenum—who was a top-10-rated passer only two years ago—from the Broncos for a late-round pick swap. And they owe him only $3.5 million in a walk year.  

         

    Where they went wrong

    The problem? Keenum will be stuck throwing to Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson and the occasionally healthy Jordan Reed. Jamison Crowder got away and wasn't replaced. Ditto for stellar pass-rusher Preston Smith. Steady swing tackle Ty Nsekhe skipped town, too. He was "replaced" by the somehow-still-employed Ereck Flowers. The Redskins took backward steps left and right, partly because they're still on the hook for Smith's $20.4 million cap hit and partly because they inexplicably decided it would be smart to make a box safety with abysmal coverage skills the fifth-highest-paid defensive back in the NFL. How the hell did Landon Collins become a priority for this team? Only the Keenum pickup saved the regressing Redskins from an F here. 

         

    What they should do now

    The Redskins have so many holes (guard, center, wide receiver, pass-rusher, corner), all they can do at this point is draft the best players available and pray. 

              

    Contract and salary-cap information courtesy of Spotrac.