Grading NFL's Latest Big Roster Moves

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2021

Grading NFL's Latest Big Roster Moves

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    It's been five months since the start of NFL free agency, and while the activity has slowed substantially since then, teams are far from finished making moves.

    As the start of the regular season approaches, teams are putting the finishing touches on their rosters, which have to be trimmed to 53 players by August 31. The cut from 90 players to 85 occurred on Tuesday. This led to some notable releases and a handful of trades. Meanwhile, one perennial Pro Bowler got the extension he's been awaiting.

    Here, we'll break down the biggest roster moves of the past week and provide grades for each team involved—based on factors like proven production, potential upside and compensation.

    Let's kick things off with a look at last week's trade between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville Jaguars Trade Joe Schobert to Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last offseason, the Jaguars signed linebacker Joe Schobert to a five-year, $53.8 million contract. His trade just a year into the deal came as a surprise, even to the player himself.

    "I think it came out of the blue, from my perspective," he said, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "... No warning signs or predetermined stuff. I was talking to defensive coaches right after I talked to the general manager, and they were pretty shocked about it."

    By moving Schobert, Jacksonville gets out from under a deal that is set to create cap hits of $9.8, $11.3 and $11.8 million in 2022, 2023 and 2024—though only $1.9 million this year. In return, they get a 2022 sixth-round pick, which amounts to virtual pennies for a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker.

    The Steelers fare far better in the deal. Based on Schobert's upcoming salary and the trade compensation, Pittsburgh may only view him as a one-year rental. However, he will inject a serious amount of talent into the linebacking corps this season.

    A Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns back in 2017, Schobert racked up 141 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three interceptions this past season. He and Devin Bush promise to give Pittsburgh one heck of an inside-linebacker tandem.

    Jacksonville Grade: D

    Pittsburgh Grade: A-

Houston Texans Trade Keion Crossen to New York Giants

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The New York Giants had the league's ninth-ranked scoring defense last season, but they were relatively average against the pass. New York ranked 16th in passing yards allowed and only 18th in interceptions (11).

    The Giants did some late tinkering with the secondary with a pair of cornerback trades. The first involved the Houston Texans and three-year veteran Keion Crossen.

    New York sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to Houston for Crossen, a part-time defender and special-teams asset. Crossen has only made four NFL starts, but he has appeared in 43 games. Last season, he played 28 percent of the defensive snaps and 59 percent of the special-teams snaps, finishing with 46 total tackles and five passes defended.

    While the compensation is underwhelming, the Texans are at least getting something in return for a player who may not have made the final roster. Houston added cornerbacks Tavierre Thomas, Terrance Mitchell and Desmond King in free agency. 2020 starters Bradley Roby and Vernon Hargreaves both return.

    The Giants, meanwhile, add a solid special-teams and depth player to help replace Isaac Yiadom. Yiadom played 58 percent of New York's defensive snaps and 28 percent of the special-teams snaps last season.

    Texans Grade: C

    Giants Grade: C+

New York Giants and Green Bay Packers Swap Isaac Yiadom, Josh Jackson

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    The trade for Crossen helps give New York insurance against their trade for Josh Jackson not panning out. The Giants and the Green Bay Packers executed a rare cornerback-for-cornerback swap on Tuesday, exchanging Yiadom and Jackson.

    This is an upside-based gamble for New York, but a smart one. Jackson, a 2018 second-round pick, was fantastic as a rookie, starting 10 games and finishing with 49 tackles and 10 passes defended. However, he fell out of favor in Green Bay, playing only 10 percent and 32 percent of the defensive snaps in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

    If Jackson can get back to being the player he was in Year 1, he could become a long-term piece of New York's defensive puzzle. He'll have a year to prove his worth, as Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

    The Packers, meanwhile, get a valuable special-teams addition in exchange for a player likely on his way out. Jackson was already a pure depth player, and Green Bay's decision to draft cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round further hurt his value to the team.

    Green Bay obviously wasn't thrilled with what it had in Jackson. Now, it will see what it can get out of Yiadom, who is also entering the final year of his rookie contract.

    Giants Grade: B+

    Packers Grade: B

Carolina Panthers Trade Greg Little to Miami Dolphins

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Another trade on Tuesday involved Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Greg Little. The Panthers sent the 2019 second-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round pick.

    The trade puts an end to an experiment that simply didn't pan out for Carolina. The Panthers traded up to select the Mississippi product with the 37th pick. At the time, it seemed like a wise gamble, as Little was viewed as a quality risk-reward prospect.

    "He will be an early starter at left tackle, but needs to improve his strength and eliminate his tendency to lean in order to reach the potential his physical and athletic traits offer," analyst Lance Zierlein wrote of Little.

    Unfortunately, Little failed to reach his potential in Carolina and barely got onto the field. He made only six starts in two seasons and played just 20 percent of the snaps in 2019 and 13 percent last season. Injuries played a role, as Little landed on injured reserve in each season.

    Carolina is getting something back for a player who may not have made the final roster, but only getting a seventh-rounder for a 23-year-old former second-round pick is disappointing.

    Miami gets the better end of the deal here. Little is young and has two years remaining on his rookie deal—and the athletic traits that made him a second-round selection remain. The Dolphins have an opportunity to develop a high-upside player and are taking a very small risk for that chance.

    Panthers Grade: D

    Dolphins Grade: B+

Seattle Seahawks Extend Jamal Adams with Four-Year Deal

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks finally have a new deal in place with Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, it's a four-year extension worth up to $70 million with $38 million guaranteed. In terms of annual compensation, Adams is now the NFL's highest-paid safety.

    It's not a great deal for a box safety who does not excel in coverage—Adams allowed an opposing passer rating of 104.7 last season. However, the deal must be viewed through a wider lens.

    In terms of Adams' value as a pass-defender, this is not a good contract. For a linebacker/safety/edge-rusher hybrid who racked up 9.5 sacks and 26 quarterback pressures last season, though, it's not a drastic overpay. The caveat is that Adams will have to continue excelling in the pass-rush department to justify his price tag.

    Seattle had little choice but to pay Adams, however. The Seahawks dealt two first-round picks, a third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald for Adams and a fourth-round selection last year. And, Adams was set to enter the final year of his rookie contract.

    According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Adams would challenge the safety franchise tag if he received it next offseason, arguing that he should be paid as a linebacker. Per Florio, Seattle was prepared to tag Adams in both 2022 and 2023.

    The non-exclusive franchise tag value for linebackers is $14.8 million this year. That number is likely to rise next season, and Adams would be due a 20 percent raise if tagged for a second successive year. With that considered, Adams' new deal is better for Seattle than it might first appear.

    Grade: C+

Notable Roster Cuts

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Tim Tebow, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

    When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed former quarterback Tim Tebow as a tight end earlier this offseason, the move made headlines. However, it was apparent during Jacksonville's preseason opener that Tebow wasn't going to make the transition a successful one. He struggled as a blocker and added nothing as a pass-catcher.

    The experiment is over, and parting with a player who was arguably a bigger distraction than an asset was a smart move by the Jaguars.

    Grade: A


    Josh Rosen, QB, San Francisco 49ers

    Like Tebow, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Josh Rosen is a former first-round draft pick. However, Rosen was drafted only three years ago and was just released by his fourth NFL franchise. Rosen is a notable name because of his draft status, but it's becoming clear that he's struggling to even secure a backup role.

    With Jimmy Garoppolo, Nate Sudfeld and rookie first-round pick Trey Lance on the roster, San Francisco had no reason to carry Rosen into the regular season.

    Grade: A


    Prince Amukamara, CB, New  Orleans Saints

    Another former first-round pick (2011), cornerback Prince Amukamara was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday. This one wasn't a slam-dunk decision.

    While Amukamara is 32 years old and coming off an underwhelming season with the Chicago Bears, he would have provided a valuable piece of secondary depth for a Saints team with playoff aspirations. Though he allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 105.2 in 2020, he allowed an opposing rating of 75.3 just two seasons ago. Amukamara was also set to carry a cap hit of only $1.1 million.

    Grade: C


    *A full list of roster cuts can be found at Cap and contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.