With the first week of the NFL year coming to a close, many of the top free agents have found their homes. Time to hand out some grades to the 32 teams.
The main story of this division is the talent lost rather than that which has been gained. The Ravens have had five players poached by other teams and done very little to help themselves. The Bengals failed to retain their starting guard although they did get Reggie Nelson back. The Browns lost Peyton Hillis. The Steelers get a D grade simply because they still have Mike Wallace but the cuts they’ve made to personnel have hurt them badly.
Plenty of good things to talk about here. For the Jags, the only direction to go was up but they have exceeded the expectations of many but not only bringing back Jeremy Mincey but also getting a wide receiver who people actually recognise in Laurent Robinson and a high upside quarterback in Chad Henne who is good competition for Blaine Gabbert. Colts get a decent grade for getting decent free agents despite losing Peyton Manning. Texans are the paupers of this group having seen their vaunted offensive line split up and lost their top defensive player. Titans have lost their best corner while doing nothing about their pass rush.
For the Dolphins free agency has been one strikeout after another as they can’t seem to get anything right. Marshall gone, no Peyton and now apparently no Flynn. They’ve made some good moves for depth but compared to the losses this means little. For the Patriots it’s business as usual as they scoop up the less attractive but ultimately better value free agents. In Buffalo, it’s all about Mario but that alone is enough to give the club a high mark due to the fact that they should never have been able to land such a prized mark. For the Jets, they have filled a few holes but done very little to really help themselves.
Surprisingly most of the best moves in the AFC have come from it’s weakest division. After finding themselves with a destroyed offensive line and losing star receiver Vincent Jackson, the Chargers have bounced back very well by snapping up many of the free agent bargains this year. Atari Bigby, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Jarret Johnson, Jared Gaither and Nick Hardwick – an impressive list even with a couple of names left off. For the Broncos they found themselves left behind during their chase of Peyton Manning and almost hadnothing to show for their free agency efforts but broken dreams. The signing of Peyton Manning changes all that as they go from an F to an A. The Chiefs have impressed many by making smart buys. Securing Eric Winston was a superb catch but the best value may lie in two moves made prior to the league year – franchising Dwayne Bowe and obtaining Oakland reject Stanford Routt. Speaking of Oakland, they have had to cut many fine players but redeemed themselves a little by making a couple of solid pickups later on.
Tomorrow I’ll release my NFC free agency grade.