Daily 2020 NFL Free-Agent Signings, Trades Grades for Start of New League Year

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMarch 18, 2020

Daily 2020 NFL Free-Agent Signings, Trades Grades for Start of New League Year

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    All of the agreed-upon deals throughout the NFL tampering period can become official Wednesday once the start of the new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET.

    A flurry of activity occurred during the last two days with the league's landscape significantly changing. Tom Brady will be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater will now lead the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers, respectively. The DeAndre Hopkins trade wasn't a bad dream.

    Brad Gagnon graded each team's moves from Monday, while Gary Davenport handled those duties Tuesday.

    But free agency and player movement is far from complete, with many more deals to be done and grades to be handed out for Wednesday's acquisitions.

Bears Acquire QB Nick Foles

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears lied to everyone. They weren’t all-in with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this offseason

    "We believe in Mitch," general manager Ryan Pace told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Mitch knows he needs to be better. We need to be better around him. And that's our goal."

    All the while, the team continued its search to acquire another quarterback. In the end, Chicago landed Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a compensatory fourth-round draft pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

    Foles isn’t an insurance plan; he’s competition for Trubisky’s starting job. The eight-year veteran is due $15.1 million in base salary this season.

    The Super Bowl LII MVP played one season with the Kansas City Chiefs when Bears head coach Matt Nagy first became Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator. That familiarity should create an instant comfort level for Foles.

    Trubisky’s continued development is no longer the Bears’ primary concern since Foles could easily end up Chicago’s starter sooner rather than later.

    The Jaguars, on the other hand, unloaded a cumbersome contract yet still had to eat $18.75 million in dead salary-cap space, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero

    Grade: Bears B+, Jaguars C+

Detroit Lions Sign CB Desmond Trufant

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The reshaping of last year’s 31st-ranked defense continues in Detroit with the acquisition of former Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant.

    According to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz, Trufant agreed to join the Lions on a two-year, $21 million deal. His eventual inclusion adds to the numerous moves Detroit recently made to improve its defense.

    General manager Bob Quinn already landed linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and safety Duron Harmon. But Trufant’s addition is more about an inevitable subtraction if Darius Slay has anything to say about it.

    "Hope that speeds up my trade process," Slay tweeted in response to the news that Trufant expects to sign with the Lions.

    Grade: B

Karl Joseph Lands in Cleveland

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    Peter Joneleit/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns entered free agency with gaping holes in the second and third lines of their defense.

    Earlier Wednesday, the Browns agreed to terms with B.J. Goodson to fill the role of the departed Joe Schobert. But safety remained a major sticking point since the team didn’t have a starting-caliber option on the roster.

    New general manager Andrew Berry didn’t let the issue linger for too long since the organization came to terms on a one-year deal for Karl Joseph, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Joseph has an extensive injury history, but his talent is undeniable, and he gives the Browns a tone-setter along the backline.

    Setting the Case Keenum signing to the side, the Browns have established an obvious track record under their new regime. Joseph, Goodson, Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper are all in their mid-20s, entering their prime years and being signed directly after their rookie contracts expired.

    Cleveland will pay each based on what it expects these young, talented players to do next, not on what they’ve already done.

    Grade: C+

Pair of Defensive Tackles Find New Homes

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Defensive tackle is the deepest position in this year’s free-agent class, and multiple teams have taken advantage to improve their defensive fronts, including the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams.

    The Vikings had to replace Linval Joseph after cutting the 31-year-old defender on Friday, and the organization did so by agreeing to a three-year, $37 million deal with Michal Pierce, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson. The figures on Pierce’s upcoming contract are interesting because the Vikings’ saved $10.4 million in salary-cap space by releasing Joseph yet seemed to reinvest nearly the same amount of money into the position with Pierce.

    Elsewhere, the Rams agreed to a deal with A’Shawn Robinson for two years and $17 million dollars, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport. Robinson adds a physical presence to Los Angeles’ defensive interior after it lost Michael Brockers to the Baltimore Ravens in free agency.

    Bigger is better, and both franchises will be better off because they invested in defensive tackle help.

    Grade: Vikings C, Rams C+

Seahawks Add 2 Players to Offensive Line

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks continued to throw more at their offensive line Wednesday in an attempt to make up for losing three starters from last year’s squad.

    Earlier, Seattle agreed to terms with guard B.J. Finney. Now, four of the five starting spots appear set with Duane Brown at left tackle, Finney at left guard, Justin Britt at center and D.J. Fluker at right guard.

    Right tackle is another matter altogether. Germain Ifedi is a free agent, and the Seahawks don’t appear eager to bring back their 2016 first-round pick, even though he started 60 games over four seasons.

    Instead, the organization agreed to terms with Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jordan Schultz, respectively.

    Shell’s two-year, $11 million deal probably earmarks him as Seattle’s next right tackle, while Ogbuehi will likely serve as the team’s swing tackle like George Fant once did. But a competition will probably ensue between the two.

    Grade: C

Bruce Irvin Returns to Seahawks

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    A player’s situation plays a significant role in his success or failure. 

    Bruce Irvin left the Seattle Seahawks four years ago when he signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders. But his career plateaued to a point at which he never developed into a true difference-maker. 

    So, it only makes sense to go back where everything started and Irvin experienced the most success. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the 2012 first-round pick agreed to re-sign with the Seahawks. 

    “I’m so happy to be going home,” Irvin tweeted

    Irvin provides a partial contingency plan if Seattle can’t re-sign Jadeveon Clowney. But even if Clowney is brought back, the Seahawks’ edge-rushers managed only 11.5 combined sacks last season. 

    Grade: B

Browns Acquire Joe Schobert’s Replacement

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    Craig Lassig/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns finally addressed their linebacker position after releasing Christian Kirksey and letting Joe Schobert leave in free agency.

    According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, B.J. Goodson agreed to terms with the Browns.

    Prior to the agreement, Cleveland had second-year linebackers Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson as its starting options. Goodson should be able to come and compete for, if not take over, the middle linebacker job.

    It’ll be difficult to replace Schobert in the middle, though. The former Browns linebacker was the league’s only defender to register 130 or more tackles, nine defended passes and four interceptions last season.

    The Browns clearly didn’t place a high value on his production. Instead, they’re going to rely on a player who’s never been a full-time starter and struggles in coverage to fill a hole they created.

    Grade: D

Devon Kennard Signs with Arizona Cardinals

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals made the move of the offseason so far by trading running back David Johnson for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The deal bordered on highway robbery. 

    But as good as that move was, the Cardinals roster is far from complete. This is a team still in the early stages of a rebuild, but it’s definitely trending in the right direction, especially if it continues to fill out the rest of the roster. 

    Hopkins and nose tackle Jordan Phillips were nice additions. The team also agreed to terms with outside linebacker Devon Kennard on Wednesday, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo

    A year ago, the Cardinals signed Terrell Suggs to serve as Chandler Jones’ bookend. Jones had a career year, but Suggs didn’t make it through the season before he was released. 

    Kennard is nine years younger and has posted back-to-back seven-sack campaigns. 

    Wide receiver? Check. Nose tackle? Check. Edge-rusher? Check. 

    So far, so good. 

    Grade: B

Patriots Find Danny Shelton’s Replacement

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Danny Shelton agreed to terms with the Detroit Lions a couple of hours before the start of the new league year. The New England Patriots found Shelton’s replacement a few hours later. 

    Beau Allen will eventually sign a two-year, $8 million deal with the Patriots, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Adam Caplan

    Shelton is coming off the best season of his career, but Allen isn’t a downgrade. Granted, Allen has never been anything but a two-down run defender as part of defensive line rotations, but his power at the point of attack will allow the Patriots to control the line of scrimmage. 

    Grade: C+

Andrew Whitworth Returns to Rams

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams' 2020 offensive line is complete. 

    As expected, the Rams and left tackle Andrew Whitworth agreed to terms Wednesday on a three-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero

    The length of the deal is somewhat surprising, though.

    Whitworth turns 39 years old in December. However, an extended contract for a player who's nearing the end of his career could mean two things. First, this will almost certainly be Whitworth’s final deal, and he’ll retire as a Ram. Second, the added years will let L.A. spread out the money for salary-cap purposes. 

    Whatever the case, the team retained its anchor for the entire offensive front. The starting five should be much better off this season after last year’s rash of injuries, with David Edwards and Brian Allen expected back and Austin Blythe re-signed. 

    Grade: A

Bengals Signs OL Xavier Su’a-Filo

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Surprisingly, the Cincinnati Bengals are quite active in free agency. 

    The team didn’t stop with the splashy agreements it reached earlier with defensive tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes. The Bengals also agreed to the parameters of a three-year, $10 million deal with guard Xavier Su’a-Filo at the start of the new league year, according to ESPN’s Ben Baby.

    In six seasons, Su’a-Filo started 53 games with the Texans and Cowboys, but he shouldn’t automatically be written in as a starter for the Bengals. He’ll be asked to compete with Michael Jordan, Billy Price and Fred Johnson after the team released John Miller. 

    Cincinnati needs to get better up front, and it should be exactly that with improved depth and the return of last year’s 11th overall pick, Jonah Williams, from a season-ending torn labrum. 

    Grade: C-

Chris Harris Jr. Picks the Los Angeles Chargers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    One of the NFL’s best pass defenses is about to get better. 

    Chris Harris Jr., who has been a premier corner for years, agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Chargers, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson

    Harris’ addition creates more flexibility within a stacked Chargers secondary. At one point, the 30-year-old defensive back was simultaneously the league’s best outside and nickel corner. He’s not at that level anymore, but he’s still more than capable of playing on either side of the numbers. 

    Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley can be even more creative with his looks since the team already had Casey Hayward Jr., Desmond King II and the league’s ultimate defensive weapon, Derwin James. 

    The Chargers made two smart moves Wednesday by adding Harris and defensive tackle Linval Joseph. The defensive front is fortified, and the Chargers' back end is definitely covered. 

    Grade: A

3 Defensive Backs Find New Homes

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    A trio of young defensive backs decided to change teams. 

    The Las Vegas Raiders reached a deal with cornerback Eli Apple, according to the Oakland Tribune’s Jerry McDonald. Apple, whom the New York Giants drafted with the 10th pick in 2016, resurrected his career with the New Orleans Saints after a rough start. The 24-year-old will join Daryl Worley and Trayvon Mullen in a rotation among the outside corners. 

    The Washington Redskins agreed to a one-year deal with safety Sean Davis, per Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams. Davis missed all but one game last year because of a season-ending shoulder injury. Previously, the 2016 second-round pick started 31 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2017 and ‘18 campaigns. Last season’s injury led to his agreeing to a short-term, prove-it deal, but the 26-year-old should immediately help Washington’s secondary because he's a solid option to cover the slot. 

    The Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, plan to sign cornerback Maurice Canady, 25, to a one-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Canady can’t replace what Byron Jones brought to Dallas’ defense the last two seasons, but he’s a long, lanky cornerback (6'1", 193 lbs) like Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown, who the Cowboys re-signed Wednesday as well, per ESPN’s Todd Archer.

    Grade: Raiders C+, Redskins C+, Cowboys C

Panthers Sign WR Seth Roberts

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Teddy Bridgewater will have a new receiving threat beyond the targets he already expected to have in Carolina, since wide receiver Seth Roberts agreed to sign with the Panthers, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

    DJ Moore led Carolina a year ago with 1,175 receiving yards, while Christian McCaffrey set an NFL record for running backs with 116 receptions. Curtis Samuel led the team with six receiving touchdowns. 

    The Panthers lack options beyond that point, especially after the team released veteran tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen basically morphed into an oversized slot receiver late in his career anyhow. 

    Roberts can work out of the slot and provide Bridgewater with another option after being the Baltimore Ravens’ third-leading wide receiver last season with 21 catches for 271 yards. 

    Grade: C-

Rams Signs LB Leonard Floyd

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    Chicago Bears' Leonard Floyd (94) is introduced before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Last season, the Los Angeles Rams benefited from betting on a talented young player who had yet to produce at a high level. Dante Fowler Jr. rewarded the franchise with a career season. 

    So, the Rams went back to the well to replace Fowler with another talented young player who is in the same position as the previous outside linebacker was a year ago. 

    Leonard Floyd, 27, will sign a one-year, $10 million contract with the Rams, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter

    Like Fowler, Floyd was a top-10 pick. Yet, he’s never produced like one. In fact, the 2016 ninth overall selection’s sack production decreased in each of his four seasons. The Rams hope he can reverse that trend. 

    Grade: C

Falcons Sign EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Sometimes a pairing is too good not to happen. 

    Sources told Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline on Feb. 4 that Dante Fowler Jr. "wants to play in Atlanta for the Falcons." 

    Fowler agreed to terms on a three-year, $48 million contract with the Falcons on Wednesday, per ESPN's Josina Anderson

    Atlanta did an exceptional job in acquiring Fowler on two fronts. 

    First, the Falcons lacked a true edge presence. The team's defense tied for 29th with 28 sacks last season. The Dolphins were the only team with fewer sacks. Fowler set a career high last season with 11.5 sacks after he bet on himself by signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams. 

    The Falcons also secured a significant win regarding the reported contract numbers. 

    At $16 million annually, Fowler's agreed-upon deal is significantly cheaper than those signed by Frank Clark ($20.8 AAV) and Dee Ford ($17.1 AAV) last season. Thirteen different edge-rushers will make more annually throughout the life of their contracts than Fowler.      

    Grade: A   

Titans Trade Jurrell Casey to the Broncos

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans are playing the long game. 

    While the front office concentrated on securing core players like Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, it shed an exorbitant contract and aging veteran by trading five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who spent his entire nine-year career with the Titans, to the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round draft pick, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

    Casey, 30, is an outstanding player, but he also carries salary-cap hits of $11.85 million or more over the next three seasons, per Over The Cap’s Nick Korte. His departure frees up space that can be used to negotiate a long-term deal with Henry, who received a franchise tag Monday. 

    First, head coach Mike Vrabel outsmarted his mentor, Bill Belichick, in the postseason. Now, his team is operating like the Patriots have for years by getting rid of a player too soon rather than too late. 

    The Broncos, meanwhile, needed defensive line help since Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis are free agents. 

    Grade: Titans C, Broncos A

Chargers Sign NT Linval Joseph

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers created a gaping hole along their defensive interior by allowing Damion Square to test free agency and releasing Brandon Mebane. 

    The front office addressed the issue by agreeing to terms with Linval Joseph on a two-year, $17 million contract, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo

    At 31 years old—he’ll turn 32 during the 2020 campaign—Joseph isn’t the dominant presence he once was, especially in the run game. Yet, he’s still one of the NFL's strongest at the point of attack and someone who can do the dirty work, thus allowing Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram III and Justin Jones to attack. 

    Grade: B

Malcolm Jenkins Returns to New Orleans

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints drafted Malcolm Jenkins with the 14th pick in 2009. After five seasons, Jenkins left in free agency and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    He’s ready to make a trip back to his original squad. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Jenkins will sign with the Saints after the Eagles declined his 2020 contract option. 

    “Probably one of the bigger mistakes that we’ve made, and you have to ask yourself, How did that happen?” Saints head coach Sean Payton said of letting Jenkins walk, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. “Letting him out of the building certainly wasn’t a smart decision.” 

    Strong safety Vonn Bell and nickel corner P.J. Williams are both free agents. Jenkins can contribute in both roles if they depart. 

    Grade: A

Rams Re-Sign OL Austin Blythe

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams are halfway to accomplishing their primary goal this offseason: keeping their offensive line intact. 

    The franchise announced it re-signed Austin Blythe on Wednesday. The 27-year-old blocker started 31 games over the last two seasons. His position flexibility helped the Rams survive numerous injuries last year, since he took over snapping duties. But a healthy Brian Allen should push Blythe back to his natural position at right guard. 

    Andrew Whitworth’s re-signing should be next on the priority list. 

    “I think we’re pretty confident,” head coach Sean McVay told reporters of re-signing the 38-year-old left tackle. “I think you feel pretty good about it. He still played a really high level last year.”

    The Rams were at their best in 2018 when the offensive line was healthy and reliable. Blythe’s re-signing and Whitworth’s potential return will turn a possible weakness into a strength. 

    Grade: B+

Lions Acquire Another Former Patriot

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The Patriotization of the Detroit Lions organization continues by the hour. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the New England Patriots traded safety Duron Harmon to the Lions for a “flip of late-round picks.” 

    The move fills a hole in the Lions secondary, because last year’s starting strong safety, Tavon Wilson, is a free agent. Harmon can immediately play alongside Tracy Walker. 

    As the Lions continue to address problem areas with former Patriots, Matt Patricia’s defense is finally coming together with the acquisitions of those who understand his scheme. 

    Last year’s 31st-ranked defense needed serious upgrades. Harmon, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton will make the Lions better at all three levels. 

    Grade: B

Browns Acquire Fullback Andy Janovich

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns continued to add to their offense, acquiring fullback Andy Janovich from the Denver Broncos for a 2021 seventh-round pick, according to Denver 9News’ Mike Klis

    Fullbacks may be on the endangered species list, but new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski still employs the position, whereas new Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur doesn’t. 

    Last season, Stefanski’s offense with the Minnesota Vikings used a fullback on 39 percent of the team’s snaps, per Sharp Football’s Warren Sharp. The Browns didn’t previously carry a fullback under Freddie Kitchens or Hue Jackson.

    Janovich is yet another piece to make life easier on all of the Browns playmakers. Granted, the 26-year-old lead-blocker won’t have the impact of Cleveland’s other recent additions—right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper—but his acquisition helps build the scheme in Stefanski’s vision. 

    Grade: C+

Gerald McCoy Signs with Cowboys

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    While the Dallas Cowboys concentrated on retaining quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, the team’s defense took multiple hits, with cornerback Byron Jones (Dolphins), defensive end Robert Quinn (Bears) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (Raiders) signing elsewhere.

    Dallas finally made a move to fortify its defensive front by agreeing to terms with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, McCoy agreed to a three-year contract to play in Big D after only one season with the Carolina Panthers.

    The six-time Pro Bowler will immediately slide into the hole left by Collins as the defense’s 3-technique. Even though McCoy is 32 years old, he’s still an upgrade over Collins and strengthens the Cowboys’ front. 

    Grade: B

Seahawks Sign Interior Blocker

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks are rebuilding their offensive line. The organization lost George Fant in free agency to the New York Jets. Also, Mike Iupati and Germain Ifedi remain unsigned. Those three combined to start 38 games last season. 

    General manager John Schneider already found Iupati’s replacement. The Seahawks are signing B.J. Finney to a two-year, $8 million deal, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero

    Finney brings positional flexibility, because he can start at guard or center, though he’s clearly earmarked for left guard with Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker already in place. 

    The 28-year-old blocker has never been a full-time starter, but he did start 13 games in four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    Grade: C+

Lions Sign DT Danny Shelton

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions continue their attempt to recapture the magic head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn once experienced during their time with the New England Patriots. 

    The organization acquired yet another former Patriot in defensive tackle Danny Shelton after agreeing to sign linebacker Jamie Collins on Monday. Shelton agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

    There’s some merit to landing both, though Shelton never played for Patricia. They’ll immediately understand the schematic concepts and expectations placed upon them. 

    In Shelton’s case, the 6'2", 345-pound interior defender is coming off his best season, while the Lions finished 21st against the run last year. 

    Grade: C+


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