Bleacher Report Expert Consensus Free-Agency GradesMarch 30, 2022
Bleacher Report Expert Consensus Free-Agency Grades
NFL teams approach free agency in a variety of ways, ranging from conservative to prodigal with all sorts of factors involved in the decision-making process.
While some front offices chose to jump-start a rebuild with a high volume of additions, other clubs showed more restraint by design or necessity. This year, we saw an exceptional number of All-Pro and Pro Bowl players moved via trades, which also had an impact on free agency.
We asked Bleacher Report NFL experts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski and Maurice Moton to grade every team's activity during this first wave of free agency. Each writer based their opinions on every team's approach to filling roster needs, a player's fit with the team and trades.
We've tallied the marks from our experts to calculate a consensus grade for all 32 teams.
For clarity, take a look at the numerical grading scale, ranging from A to F. We added three points for a plus grade (i.e. B-plus would equal 88) and took off three points for a minus (i.e. B-minus would equal 82):
- A: 95
- B: 85
- C: 75
- D: 65
- F: 55
The Arizona Cardinals lost key starters on both sides of the ball, as edge-rusher Chandler Jones, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, running back Chase Edmonds and wideout Christian Kirk signed elsewhere.
While Moton thinks Arizona should've let Kirk walk, he highlighted the added pressure on the team's secondary pass-catchers.
"We can't blame Arizona for not matching the four-year, $72 million contract that Kirk signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Rondale Moore must take a second-year leap," he wrote. "Perhaps tight end Zach Ertz, whom the team re-signed, will continue to build a rapport with quarterback Kyler Murray."
The Cardinals don't have a viable replacement for Jones, who left for the Las Vegas Raiders. J.J. Watt and Markus Golden project as the team's top pass-rushers, but the former has missed 18 games over the past three seasons.
Running back James Conner re-signed with the Cardinals on a three-year, $21 million deal after scoring a career-high 18 touchdowns from scrimmage last season. He's missed at least two games in each of his five NFL seasons, which means unproven running back Eno Benjamin or newcomer Jaylen Samuels may need to help fill Edmonds' void in the backfield.
The Cardinals didn't do anything in free agency that indicates they'll get over their late-season swoons.
Consensus Grade: C-
Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot decided to embark upon a full-blown rebuild when he shipped longtime starting quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick. Shortly after the trade, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year contract as a stopgap option under center.
Sobleski acknowledges the drop-off at the position, but he sees the logic in Fontenot's short-term plan.
"On paper, the Falcons may be the worst team in the league coming out of this offseason," he wrote. "The Ryan trade certainly didn't help matters. The veteran quarterback hid some of his deficiencies last season when the team managed seven wins. Mariota is a clear downgrade at the game's most important position, though he could be a solid bridge to another quarterback."
Mariota won't have much receiving help, however. The league suspended star wideout Calvin Ridley for at least the 2022 season because he gambled on games last year. Meanwhile, Russell Gage answered the call from Tom Brady and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Falcons did re-sign all-purpose threat Cordarrelle Patterson, and they added a big 6'5", 228-pound target in Auden Tate. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta has only added one notable defender so far.
"Casey Hayward can still play at a relatively high level, and Patterson's re-signing gives the team a weapon other than Kyle Pitts," Sobleski said. "Beyond those moves, the Falcons signed a handful of one-year, prove-it deals with middling free agents. It could be a long season in Atlanta."
Consensus Grade: D+
The Baltimore Ravens figure to make a long-term commitment to quarterback Lamar Jackson at some point this offseason, which may explain why they've handed out only one big-money contract.
The Ravens had a ton of key players suffer injuries this past season, so they may expect a bounce-back year with better health. However, Davenport doesn't see their standing in the AFC changing either way.
"For the Ravens, the 2022 offseason is as much about getting healthier as getting better," he wrote. "But they still had needs to address. The problem is that for every hole they filled, another appeared.
"Baltimore got better at tackle with Morgan Moses, but it lost center Bradley Bozeman. It added a quality safety in Marcus Williams but lost a cornerback in Anthony Averett. Edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith originally agreed to sign with the team, then backed out.
"The Ravens have effectively spent the offseason treading water. That won't cut it in the AFC this year."
Baltimore would've earned higher grades if the front office had closed the deal with Smith. But as Davenport noted, even a healthy Ravens squad might not stack up well against the improved rosters across the AFC.
Consensus Grade: B-
The Buffalo Bills couldn't make a stop in an AFC divisional-round game that ended with the Kansas City Chiefs marching down the field for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. To rectify that this offseason, they signed longtime Denver Broncos edge-rusher Von Miller, a career closer in critical games.
After the Broncos traded Miller to the Los Angeles Rams in November, he logged nine sacks between Week 15 and Super Bowl 56. His six-year, $120 million contract might seem exorbitant, but the Bills are all-in on chasing a Super Bowl.
The Bills allowed 19 rushing touchdowns last season, which was tied for 26th leaguewide. They added defensive tackles Tim Settle and DaQuan Jones in free agency to address that issue.
Buffalo also improved on offense by replacing Daryl Williams with guard Rodger Saffold, who's coming off his first Pro Bowl season. Tight end O.J. Howard didn't play up to his first-round pedigree with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he has 15 career touchdown receptions and is capable of carving out a niche role in the red zone. The Bills lost slot wideout Cole Beasley but replaced him with Jamison Crowder.
"If you think Josh Allen takes a step back with the departure of former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, think again," Moton wrote. "He'll have better interior protection and another big target."
Buffalo has just one problem following free agency: It hasn't find a solid replacement for cornerback Levi Wallace, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. General manager Brandon Beane will probably look to fill that void early in the draft, but that's the only soft spot on an otherwise stacked roster.
Consensus Grade: A-
The Carolina Panthers have yet to sign a quarterback to challenge Sam Darnold after he threw for only nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games (11 starts) last season, although Cam Newton remains a free agent. They might look to address that glaring need during the draft instead.
Sobleski can see the Panthers' offensive line slowly coming together, though.
"The signings of Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman won't highlight any offseason moves, yet they'll help solidify the Panthers' offensive interior and improve upon one of last season's worst starting groups," he wrote. "If Brady Christensen takes over at left guard, four-fifths of the unit is complete, with left tackle still to be addressed in free agency (Duane Brown?) or the draft."
Whoever starts under center for the 2022 season may have solid protection if the front line builds some chemistry through the summer. Other than that, Sobleski believes the Panthers made a few signings that will offset the loss of Haason Reddick, their 2021 sack leader.
"The retention of cornerback Donte Jackson coupled with the signing of linebacker Damien Wilson are solid moves in the wake of Reddick's departure to the Philadelphia Eagles," he said.
Consensus Grade: C
General manager Ryan Poles' first offseason with the Chicago Bears looks more like a teardown than the start of something promising. Defensive tackle Justin Jones signed the richest deal (two years, $12 million with $7.1 million guaranteed) among the team's acquisitions to date.
Davenport believes the Bears had a reality check and embraced a full-fledged reboot, but he doesn't think they've done enough to help second-year signal-caller Justin Fields.
"On some level, the ugliness of Chicago's offseason has been unavoidable. Wide receiver Allen Robinson II has had one foot out the door for over a year. Recouping some draft capital and getting Khalil Mack's salary off the books was probably a good thing long-term. The Bears are at least being realistic about what they are—a rebuilding team.
"But a bad offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked 22nd in the league last season isn't any better, and the Bears have arguably the worst group of wide receiver talent in the NFL. Fields isn't exactly being set up to succeed in his second professional season."
While we can understand the financial justification for trading Mack after his injury-riddled age-30 campaign, the Bears have a major question mark at tackle opposite of Teven Jenkins. Fields only has one starting-caliber wideout in Darnell Mooney. Edge-rusher Al-Quadin Muhammad is the team's best signing to date, and he just became a full-time starter last year.
Consensus Grade: D+
The Cincinnati Bengals had one primary objective in free agency: find some bodyguards for quarterback Joe Burrow, who took a beating throughout the 2021 campaign behind a subpar offensive line.
Davenport essentially said job well done on that front while also mentioning an underrated acquisition who will fill a void at tight end in the wake of C.J. Uzomah's departure.
"The Bengals came into the offseason with one massive, glaring need: bolstering an offensive line that, including the postseason, allowed the third-most sacks (70) in a season in league history. The team accomplished that goal by signing guards Alex Cappa and Ted Karras as free agency opened before circling back to pick up tackle La'el Collins. Add in the signing of 2018 first-round tight end Hayden Hurst, and there aren't many teams that did a better job in free agency than Cincinnati."
Cincinnati clearly upgraded three starting positions across its offensive line and took a one-year, $3.5 million flier on Hurst, who caught 56 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
The Bengals earned straight As from our expert panel.
Consensus Grade: A
The Cleveland Browns took a major risk by trading six draft picks for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Davenport delved into the details and the cloud of uncertainty around him.
"We may not know for sure how the 2022 offseason will impact the Browns for years," he wrote. "What we do know is that the Browns mortgaged their future to trade for a quarterback who could be facing a lengthy suspension due to 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and sexual assault, and then they gave that quarterback the largest guaranteed contract the NFL has ever seen. We also know that the trade (and contract) caused a great deal of backlash from some fans of the team.
"For better or worse, Watson is all anyone is going to remember about the 2022 offseason. And that deal will define the Browns for the next decade."
With the league's investigation into Watson's cases still ongoing, Cleveland has to endure the criticism for a move that can leave an everlasting stain on the organization. On the field, he's an upgrade over Baker Mayfield, but we cannot say for sure if the Browns will benefit from that.
Aside from Watson, the Browns landed a No. 1 wide receiver in Amari Cooper (via a trade with the Dallas Cowboys), who will add much-needed juice to the passing game. Per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns will also attempt to re-sign wideout Jarvis Landry after releasing him, but he's weighing his options with a new agent and wants $20 million annually, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Cleveland released starting center J.C. Tretter as well, but newcomer Ethan Pocic could replace him.
Consensus Grade: D+
The Dallas Cowboys took their lumps during free agency in the form of key departures.
In recent years, the Cowboys have fielded a top-notch offensive line that opened up big lanes for ball-carriers and kept quarterback Dak Prescott upright. This offseason, they lost a few starters in that group and their most accomplished wideout.
Davenport doesn't feel good about any of it.
"The Cowboys go into every offseason with two things: Super Bowl aspirations and a lack of cap space. In 2022, just one is grounded in reality. The Cowboys may still be the favorites in the NFC East, but the past few weeks have not been kind to the organization.
"The team lost one of its biggest passing-game weapons when it traded (dumped) Amari Cooper to Cleveland. Two offensive linemen said sayonara in guard Connor Williams and tackle La'el Collins, and Dallas missed out on retaining one of its top edge-rushers when Randy Gregory bolted for Denver. There is no reasonable way to look at this Dallas team and say it's better than the Cowboys who lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round last year—or even as good."
Gregory initially agreed to terms with the Cowboys, but he spurned them for the Broncos because of a hang-up in contract structure, per ESPN's Jeff Legwold. Ouch.
The Cowboys did re-sign defensive end Dorance Armstrong, and they added Dante Fowler Jr., who finished with only 4.5 sacks and 17 quarterback pressures in 2021. However, they took too many losses in March.
Consensus Grade: D+
To address their quarterback quandary, the Denver Broncos didn't waste their time with the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in the free-agent pool. Instead, they went after a big fish and landed Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Broncos gave up quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive tackle Shelby Harris along with multiple draft picks in the deal for Wilson. However, they added D.J. Jones to replace Harris on the interior along with edge-rusher Randy Gregory in free agency.
"The Broncos went 7-10 in 2021, but they're now a playoff contender with Wilson," Moton wrote. "On top of that, Denver strengthened its third-ranked scoring defense from last year by adding a high-end run-stuffer in Jones and Gregory to play opposite of Bradley Chubb."
Even without Fant, Wilson has a plethora of pass-catching options with wideouts Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler and young tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. The Broncos significantly improved their offensive upside by moving from Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, who signed with the Miami Dolphins, to Wilson.
Consensus Grade: A-
The Detroit Lions finished at the bottom of the standings in the NFC, but they didn't splurge much on the free-agent market. Instead, the front office made smaller, cost-effective investments.
Davenport says the Lions spent wisely on starting-caliber talent and unloaded a bad deal.
"Wide receiver D.J. Chark was a quality signing at a reasonable price, assuming he can return to 100 percent from last year's fractured ankle," he wrote. "Cornerback Mike Hughes was capable for the Kansas City Chiefs last year. Getting Trey Flowers' abomination of a contract off the books was a smart play. And the Lions brought back some key in-house guys like safety Tracy Walker.
"But the Lions won only three games last year and don't appear markedly better now. They have a ton of draft capital this year, including two first-rounders. General manager Brad Holmes needs to use those picks well."
The Lions also kept wideout Josh Reynolds, who has a rapport with quarterback Jared Goff that dates back to their time together with the Los Angeles Rams (2017-2020). They also re-signed starting linebacker Alex Anzalone and edge-rusher Charles Harris, a 2017 first-rounder coming off his best season (7.5 sacks, 34 quarterback pressures and 10 tackles for loss).
Detroit didn't chase after big names on the free-agent market. Nonetheless, the team deserves kudos for adding and retaining quality talent without breaking the bank.
Consensus Grade: B-
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers' three-year, $150.8 million extension came at a costly long-term price. Though the quarterback's new deal reduced his 2022 cap hit, the Green Bay Packers had to make tough decisions.
Davenport highlighted the fiscal downside of Rodgers' record-setting contract.
"The financial realities of Rodgers' contract have caused the team around him to crumble," he wrote. "The Packers released edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith to clear cap space, and they shipped wide receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders in a blockbuster deal."
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers had "no discussions" with Adams about a new deal before the franchise-tag window opened February 22. They eventually offered him more money than the Raiders did, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, but it was his "lifelong dream" to play for the Raiders.
The Packers did re-sign All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and cornerback Rasul Douglas following his breakout campaign (13 pass breakups, five interceptions and two pick-sixes).
Davenport isn't ready to pass the NFC North crown to another team, but he has serious doubts about the Packers' passing attack and concerns about overall regression.
"With both Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling gone, Green Bay's wideout corps is a mess," he noted. "And before folks start penciling in a rookie for a huge year, it's worth noting that Rodgers tends to need time to develop a rapport with pass-catchers.
"The Packers are still the favorites in the NFC North. But this team isn't as good as the one the San Francisco 49ers stunned in the divisional round."
Consensus Grade: D+
After sending quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns this offseason, the Houston Texans now appear to be heading into the Davis Mills era.
Houston will likely use the draft capital that it acquired in the Watson trade to continue its franchise reboot, but it hasn't spend a ton on free agents.
"Most of the Texans' roster teardown occurred last season, with the Watson trade being the final piece to fall into place," Sobleski wrote. "The return on that deal helps build a treasure trove of draft assets to build a long-term foundation, starting with this year's draft class. But free agency hasn't been nearly as productive.
"Granted, free agency should accentuate a roster, not define it. However, the Texans once again agreed to terms on a bunch of relatively minor deals for role players. They can help, but they aren't going to make a significant difference setting the franchise's new direction."
Houston lost starting safety Justin Reid to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. Among new additions, the Texans spent the most on guard A.J. Cann (two years, $8.5 million), who missed 13 games with an MCL injury last season.
The Texans signed weak-side linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin to a two-year, $7.5 million deal with $5 million in guarantees. Yet they also retained Kamu Grugier-Hill, who had a decent 2021 season at the same position with 108 tackles, 13 for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups and an interception.
We're scratching our heads about their plan for the spot alongside Christian Kirksey.
Consensus Grade: C
The Indianapolis Colts created a void under center heading into free agency when they traded quarterback Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders. With a few solid role players on expiring contracts, the front office had work to do.
Sobleski didn't weigh the acquisitions of quarterback Matt Ryan or edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue in his grade, though he acknowledged the team made strong improvements during the early wave of free agency.
"The grade itself is misleading, because the Colts have improved tremendously this offseason," he said. "But the acquisitions of Ryan and Ngakoue came courtesy of trades, not free agency.
"As a whole, general manager Chris Ballard has sat out of free agency. Guard Mark Glowinski, edge-rusher Al-Quadin Muhammad, wide receiver Zach Pascal and safety George Odum left and signed elsewhere. Indianapolis has done nothing in return (so far).
"To be clear, the Colts are a markedly improved team after adding Ryan and Ngakoue. They just have yet to make a free-agent move of any significance."
The Colts addressed holes at two of the most important positions on the roster, but Ballard must pick up some placeholders at key offensive positions with wideout T.Y. Hilton and left tackle Eric Fisher no longer on the books.
Consensus Grade: C
The Jacksonville Jaguars went into free agency with quantity, not cost-effectiveness on their minds. A few hours into the legal tampering period, they came to agreements on multiple lucrative deals.
"Some kind of joke can be made about a team winning the offseason while never winning when games mattered," Sobleski wrote. "But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers destroyed that old cliche two years ago.
"Granted, the Jaguars aren't this year's Buccaneers. However, the stigma of spending big in the offseason should no longer apply. Besides, the Jaguars needed to do something to jump-start their moribund franchise."
General manager Trent Baalke goes into his second year with the team, but he had to change the complexion of the roster for a new coaching staff. Sobleski doesn't deny the Jaguars paid too much for players, but he's OK with the overall plan.
"Jacksonville has been the NFL's worst team two years running," he added. "A fresh start under new leadership, specifically head coach Doug Pederson, signaled change. The front office overspent in certain areas. Still, the Jaguars will be more competitive with the likes of wide receiver Christian Kirk, guard Brandon Scherff, linebacker Foyesade Oluokun and cornerback Darious Williams."
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has to like the addition of Kirk, a versatile wideout, along with an athletic tight end in Evan Engram and Scherff, who's one of the league's best guards when healthy. Defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, Oluokun and Williams should also be major upgrades on every level of the defense.
Consensus Grade: B+
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs shocked everyone this offseason—not in a good way—and have yet to adequately fill their holes on defense.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, the Chiefs had contract talks with wideout Tyreek Hill that stalled before they allowed him to seek a trade. According to Hill's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, the Las Vegas Raiders' move to acquire wide receiver Davante Adams and sign him to a five-year, $140 million deal changed the financial outlook for his client, which led to an abrupt breakup.
Kansas City sent Hill to the Miami Dolphins for five draft picks, including a first- and second-rounder in the upcoming draft. As AFC West defensive backs breathed a sigh of relief, Moton says not so fast on projecting the Chiefs' demise, though he acknowledges the team has an added burden going forward.
"Don't get carried away and bury the Chiefs," he said. "With quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid, they're still playoff contenders, but the offense must work a little harder to outscore opponents while the defense pulls more of its weight without an explosive scoring attack on the other side of the ball."
Though the Chiefs signed running back Ronald Jones II along with wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who will soak up targets following Hill's departure, the front office hasn't replaced cornerback Charvarius Ward. Safety Justin Reid has limitations with 25 missed tackles over the last two seasons, and he'll likely replace one of the league's most versatile safeties in free agent Tyrann Mathieu, who can support the run and play in the slot.
Kansas City didn't even make a splashy signing to strengthen its run defense that allowed the second-most yards per carry (4.8) last season. Yikes.
Consensus Grade: D+
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders' new administration set off fireworks after a quiet two-day stretch through the legal tampering period, signing edge-rusher Chandler Jones and acquiring wideout Davante Adams from the Green Packers on back-to-back days.
Vegas signed Adams to a record-setting five-year, $140 million deal, which means he's locked in with his former Fresno State teammate and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr for the foreseeable future.
The Raiders traded their 2021 sack leader in Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who addresses a roster need with the departure of Casey Hayward. Cornerback Anthony Averett can compete for that vacant spot, too. Jones is a two-time All-Pro who's better equipped to play the run than Ngakoue, which is important for a unit that ranked 19th against ground attacks last season.
"New Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler watched the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers bring in Pro Bowl and All-Pro talent, then he threw a few haymakers to counter them," Moton said. "Carr should have his best seasons with Adams, while Jones pairs with Maxx Crosby to put immense pressure on quarterbacks across the league."
The Raiders added two high-impact difference-makers on both sides of the ball. However, they still have a major question mark on the right side of the offensive line.
Alex Leatherwood moved from right tackle to right guard early last season. The front office re-signed Brandon Parker and Jermaine Eluemunor, but the former gave up eight sacks in 2021, per Pro Football Focus, and the latter has started only 14 games through five seasons.
Consensus Grade: B+
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers maintained their top-five scoring offense by re-signing wideout Mike Williams. But head coach Brandon Staley, who's a former defensive coordinator, will now be able to shut down opponents with a revamped unit that features two new premier playmakers.
The Chargers acquired three-time All-Pro edge-rusher Khalil Mack in a trade with the Chicago Bears. Aside from his pass-rushing skills, he should improve Los Angeles' 30th-ranked run defense from last season as well.
General manager Tom Telesco made another huge splash in free agency when he landed coveted cornerback J.C. Jackson. The former New England Patriot has 25 interceptions in four seasons and led the league in pass breakups (23) last year.
"The Chargers should field a top-10 defense in 2022," Moton said. "They added a ball-hawking lead cornerback in Jackson, and Mack joins Joey Bosa to form the best pass-rushing tandem in the league if both stay healthy."
The Chargers made some minor moves to further address their weak run defense, too. Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day is set to reunite with Staley, who was his defensive coordinator on the Los Angeles Rams in 2020. Fellow defensive tackle Austin Johnson recorded career highs in tackles (72) and tackles for loss (six) last season. Both of them should strengthen L.A.'s defensive front.
Consensus Grade: A
Los Angeles Rams
Outside linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Darious Williams and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day all signed with new teams this offseason, but the cap-strapped Los Angeles Rams have yet make any notable additions at those positions.
However, the Rams should maintain a high-powered aerial attack with quarterback Matthew Stafford at the helm on a new contract.
Although left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired, Joe Noteboom, who re-signed with the team on a three-year, $40 million deal, will likely move into the starting lineup. The latter played well in place of the former in the first two rounds of the 2021 playoffs.
The Rams also added Allen Robinson II to their receiving corps on a three-year, $46.5 million deal.
"Despite their cap limitations, the Rams had a shocker up their sleeve," Moton wrote. "They upgraded their wide receiver group with the addition of Robinson. Between him and 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles has two No. 1 wideouts with great size."
Kupp (6'2", 208 lbs) and Robinson (6'2", 210 lbs) won't go down easy after the catch. The Rams traded Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans and Odell Beckham Jr. remains on the free-agent market as well, but Van Jefferson's big-play ability (16.0 yards per catch in 2021) fits in nicely with the two lead wideouts.
Consensus Grade: B-
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should send a gift basket to general manager Chris Grier for acquiring two-time All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill in a blockbuster trade.
In addition to Hill, the Dolphins will field a new-look offensive line with three-time Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead and guard Connor Williams, who gave up one sack through 948 offensive snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus. Williams just needs to cut down on his penalties after being called for 15 last year.
Tagovailoa also has a new reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield in Chase Edmonds. The dual-threat running back racked up 2,472 scrimmage yards (1,551 rushing and 921 receiving) in four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Dolphins also signed wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr., who showed some flashes with the Dallas Cowboys in the second half of last season. The 6'2", 200-pound wideout had two 100-plus-yard games after Week 11.
"On top of the new acquisitions, the Dolphins re-signed tight end Mike Gesicki," Moton noted. "Tagovailoa has an abundance of weapons in an offense that should rank within the top 10 in scoring next season."
The Dolphins retained Emmanuel Ogbah, their lead pass-rusher over the past two terms, to balance a defense with a pair of high-end cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones on the back end.
With a balanced roster, Miami could push the Buffalo Bills for the top spot in the AFC East.
Consensus Grade: A
The Minnesota Vikings' new front office clearly has faith in quarterback Kirk Cousins and the core of the roster leftover from the previous regime.
The Vikings did make a big splash by adding edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith after his agreement with the Baltimore Ravens fell through. They also signed linebacker Jordan Hicks on a two-year, $10 million contract.
Other than that, the team took care of its own, which didn't impress Davenport.
"The Vikings appear to have delusions of grandeur," he wrote. "Somehow, Cousins managed to Jedi mind-trick the Vikes into handing him a one-year, $35 million extension. They also gave Smith $14 million per season despite having a ton of cap space locked into Danielle Hunter. Meanwhile, their 28th-ranked pass defense from last year may actually be worse on paper.
"The Vikings have spent like they are a player or two from making a legitimate Super Bowl run. But in reality, they look a lot like the squad that went 8-9 in 2021."
To Davenport's point, Minnesota has a few holes in its secondary with cornerback Patrick Peterson still on the open market and Xavier Woods headed to the Carolina Panthers. Chandon Sullivan will likely replace Mackensie Alexander in the slot, but the team needs to do more to shore up its porous pass defense.
Consensus Grade: C+
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots didn't do quarterback Mac Jones many favors in free agency.
They traded starting right guard Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lost versatile left guard Ted Karras to the Cincinnati Bengals. Run-blocking fullback Jakob Johnson and pass-catching running back Brandon Bolden will reunite with former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas.
Though Michael Onwenu could fill in for one of the departed guards, he may have to spell oft-injured right tackle Trent Brown, whom the team re-signed on an incentive-laden deal.
"Jones will have to grow with his pass-catching group because the Patriots' ground game could take a step back with a new pair of starting guards and a fresh face at fullback," Moton added. "Furthermore, he must move the ball and score more points with the loss of a couple of key starters on defense."
The Patriots let Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson walk, and he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. They released linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who recorded 66 tackles, five for loss, five sacks, 10 pass breakups, and a pick-six last season.
The front office signed safety Jabrill Peppers, who's coming off a ruptured ACL, and acquired linebacker Mack Wilson from the Cleveland Browns. They're not going to fully compensate for the loss of Jackson, a ball-hawking cornerback with 25 career interceptions, and Van Noy's versatility on the second level of the defense.
New England's free-agency moves didn't answer any significant questions and created major voids.
Consensus Grade: D
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints didn't have much salary-cap flexibility this offseason, so they had to approach the free-agent market with their bare roster necessities in mind. That started with quarterback.
On SiriusXM Radio (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith), The Athletic's Larry Holder said Taysom Hill isn't in the quarterback discussion. Instead, the Saints re-signed Jameis Winston on a two-year, $28 million deal.
"As always, the Saints found themselves in salary-cap hell, only to dig out of the hole and make a couple of moves," Sobleski said. "This offseason, they haven't made a move capable of changing the face of the franchise. Winston's return was the most logical short-term solution at quarterback."
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Saints expect Winston to progress in his recovery from a torn ACL and participate in training camp "if everything continues to go smoothly with his rehab."
Sobleski evened out the good news with his concerns about the Saints' free-agent departures.
"Going from Marcus Maye to Marcus Williams at safety is an even swap at best, if not a slight downgrade for the Saints," he wrote. "Terron Armstead, who is one of the game's best left tackles, left and signed with the Miami Dolphins. Burying beef with star wide receiver Michael Thomas has been the Saints' biggest offseason move, but Thomas wasn't a free agent."
Consensus Grade: D+
New York Giants
The New York Giants splurged on wideout Kenny Golladay (four years, $72 million) and cornerback Adoree' Jackson (three years, $39 million) in free agency last year, but that didn't amount to many wins in 2021.
This year, Big Blue's new regime adopted a much different strategy. Among their free-agent pickups, guard Mark Glowinski signed the richest deal (three years, $18.3 million).
Given the team's recent shortcomings, Davenport doesn't have a problem with the change in spending philosophy.
"The Giants have a new head coach in Brian Daboll and a new general manager in Joe Schoen, and neither appears inclined to attempt a quick fix of the myriad of issues facing the team," he wrote. "The club has parted ways with expensive veterans like safety Logan Ryan, and most of the signings have been under-the-radar types like quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Glowinski.
"Frankly, the slow-and-steady approach is the right one for a Giants team that hasn't won more than six games in a season since 2016, especially since it has two top-10 picks in this year's draft. But expecting much improvement from last year's 4-13 record is setting oneself up for disappointment."
The cap-strapped Giants didn't go into free agency with enough resources to pursue top-tier veterans. They'll instead look to load up on quality talent during the draft with five selections in the first three rounds.
Consensus Grade: C
New York Jets
The New York Jets upgraded their offensive line, added a pair of tight ends and bolstered the secondary. Not bad for two weeks' worth of work.
Gang Green signed Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson to man the left side. Alijah Vera-Tucker will shift to right guard, a position he played in his early years at USC. Behind a stronger offensive line, second-year quarterback Zach Wilson should have more time to find a few big targets downfield.
Even if tight end C.J. Uzomah struggles away from a loaded wide receiver unit in Cincinnati that included Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Tyler Conklin could continue to develop into a solid playmaker after his breakout 2021 campaign (61 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns). They can compensate for the team's loss of slot wideout Jamison Crowder.
Moton also highlighted the Jets' acquisitions in the secondary.
"The Jets had to revamp their pass defense after allowing the third-most yards through the air in 2021," he wrote. "They signed two starting-caliber players in cornerback D.J. Reed, who played two seasons (2018-2019) under head coach Robert Saleh when he served as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, and safety Jordan Whitehead."
Whitehead plays at his best closer to the line of scrimmage, but he recorded eight pass breakups and two interceptions while allowing an impressive 62.6 passer rating in coverage last season.
The Jets won't build a playoff contender overnight, but they moved in the right direction during free agency.
Consensus Grade: B
The Philadelphia Eagles kept their house in order during free agency and picked up a top-tier free agent in edge-rusher Haason Reddick who can immediately help their defense.
Sobleski thinks general manager Howie Roseman will appropriately save the rest of his action for the draft.
"The Eagles haven't made many offseason moves because they didn't need to do," he wrote. "The team is already ahead of the curve with quarterback Jalen Hurts' development and making the postseason in Nick Sirianni's first season as a head coach. Plus, the Eagles have three first-round picks in this year's draft."
Sobleski also credited the Eagles for not allowing their key role players to sign elsewhere.
"The Eagles brought back safety Anthony Harris, running back Boston Scott, defensive end Derek Barnett and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (after releasing him)," he said. "The team also brought in Reddick and wide receiver Zach Pascal. Reddick should give them a consistent pass-rusher, while Pascal's familiarity with Sirianni's offensive scheme will only help Philadelphia's passing attack."
With Reddick, who's logged double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons, joining Cox, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat, Philadelphia has one of the league's best defensive fronts.
Consensus Grade: B
Following Ben Roethlisberger's retirement, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed a stopgap quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky and made some shrewd additions that should keep them competitive for the 2022 season.
Davenport isn't too excited about Trubisky, though he approves of the Steelers' additions along the offensive line and at cornerback.
"Trubisky won't generate a ton of enthusiasm, but he's a capable starting quarterback and probably an upgrade over what was left of Roethlisberger in 2021," he wrote. "Mason Cole and James Daniels will bring some badly needed help along the offensive line. Levi Wallace was a good low-cost add at cornerback.
"However, the Steelers also lost significant talent at wideout and in the secondary, and they don't appear markedly better than last year's iteration. Pittsburgh may earn another wild-card spot in 2022, but that's likely as far as this team will go."
After wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington signed elsewhere, the Steelers need to round out their receiving corps. While Wallace can replace Joe Haden on the boundary with Ahkello Witherspoon on the opposite side, the Steelers need a starting safety if they don't plan on re-signing Terrell Edmunds.
With that said, Myles Jack will shore up the linebacker group after Pittsburgh released Joe Schobert.
Consensus Grade: B
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers made one clear upgrade in the secondary and focused on depth with the rest of their free-agent moves.
The 49ers have a new starting cornerback in Charvarius Ward, an underrated cover man who made strides over the past few years. In 2021, he cut down on his penalties significantly while recording 10 pass breakups along with a pair of interceptions.
Aside from Ward, the 49ers added role players in linebacker Oren Burks, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and safety George Odum on defense.
Arden Key, who finished second on the team in sacks last year, is still on the market. Moton thinks the 49ers should make a strong push to re-sign him because of concerns about the pass rush.
"Nick Bosa missed 14 games with a torn ACL in 2020, and general manager John Lynch doesn't see Dee Ford being a factor in 2022," he wrote. "Key provides an extra push in the second unit, but he can also generate consistent pressure in a bigger role."
Though Key has made visits with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, and the Kansas City Chiefs, per ESPN's Field Yates, the 49ers could boost their grade a bit by convincing him to stay.
Consensus Grade: C+
The Seattle Seahawks hit the reset button this offseason by trading quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. We can't ignore that blockbuster deal when assessing their other free-agent moves.
In a league that emphasizes offense, specifically the passing game, Moton isn't thrilled about the Seahawks' short-term outlook.
"Whether the Seahawks draft a quarterback early or not, fans should brace themselves for an uninspiring rebuild with a 70-year-old head coach who tried to reinvent the offense with a new play-caller in Shane Waldron last season," he said. "Even with Wilson healthy, the offense looked clunky."
On the bright side, the Seahawks acquired tight end Noah Fant and defensive tackle Shelby Harris along with multiple picks, including two first-rounders. They also added strong-armed quarterback Drew Lock in the deal, but he's probably a stopgap option.
Seattle avoided Fs for its grades because Fant and Harris will start. The front office also re-signed or added a few quality players in safety Quandre Diggs, edge-rusher Uchenna Nwosu and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson.
Consensus Grade: D+
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Once quarterback Tom Brady decided to end his short-lived retirement, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just needed to keep as much of their team together as possible. That's exactly what they've done.
Players on expiring deals didn't hesitate to sign up for another season with Brady, who helped lead the Buccaneers to the playoffs in consecutive campaigns and a Super Bowl title in his two years with the club.
"The Buccaneers couldn't bring the whole band back together for yet another offseason, but they've done a much better job than expected," Sobleski wrote. "After Brady un-retired, center Ryan Jensen and running back Leonard Fournette returned despite having significant interest from other teams. Wide receiver Chris Godwin also signed a contract extension instead of playing on the franchise tag.
"Tampa Bay did lose a few key pieces in right guard Alex Cappa, safety Jordan Whitehead and tight end O.J. Howard. However, the Bucs more than made up for those departures with the additions of wide receiver Russell Gage, safety/nickelback Logan Ryan and guard Shaq Mason via trade."
Gage caught 66 passes for 770 yards and four touchdowns last season with the Atlanta Falcons. He'll fill a void in the Bucs' passing game, particularly if tight end Rob Gronkowski retires.
Consensus Grade: A-
The Tennessee Titans may field a more balanced offense in 2022 after signing tight end Austin Hooper and acquiring wideout Robert Woods via a trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
"Hooper is an excellent addition after no tight end on the Titans managed more than 291 receiving yards last season," Sobleski wrote. "Even during a down year in 2021, Hooper managed better receiving numbers than Anthony Firkser. When used properly, the 27-year-old veteran is a Pro Bowl-caliber target."
If Woods makes a full recovery from his torn ACL, he should also become a reliable target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The 29-year-old wideout has finished with a catch rate of 64.7 percent or better in each of the last six seasons.
On the flip side, Sobleski sees an issue for the Titans' offensive line after the team cut Pro Bowl guard Rodger Saffold.
"The aging blocker was a tone-setter up front," he wrote. "Just based on where the team stood last, Tennessee may still be the best squad in the AFC South, but the Indianapolis Colts made far more progress this offseason."
With an offense that relies heavily on running back Derrick Henry, the Titans need to adequately replace Saffold or hope their new pass-catchers click with Tannehill right away.
Consensus Grade: B-
The Washington Commanders concluded their extensive quarterback search by acquiring Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts, but they lost key players on both sides of the ball.
Washington's free-agency departures concerned Sobleski, who would've lowered the team's grade even further if he included the trade for Wentz.
"The Commanders feature a relatively talented roster overall," he wrote. "The defensive line is loaded. They have talent at most of the skill positions. Their roster isn't complete, though. Unfortunately, Washington might have regressed this offseason with its moves.
"Maybe regressed is too strong of a word. However, the team hasn't gotten significantly better after losing Brandon Scherff, Landon Collins, Matt Ioannidis, Ereck Flowers and Tim Settle. Signing Andrew Norwell is Washington's biggest free-agent deal to date, but he only offsets Flowers' departure."
Scherff has missed 21 games since the start of the 2018 season, so the Commanders might have preferred to let him walk rather than handing him a massive contract. However, he's made the Pro Bowl in five of the past six seasons.
Wentz is a great talent with plenty of arm strength and mobility, but The Athletic's Zak Keefer pulled back the curtains about the signal-caller's lack of leadership. That raises some red flags about the trade from Washington's perspective.
Consensus Grade: C-