NFL Free Agency 2022 Winners and Losers

Indianapolis Colts QB Matt Ryan
Indianapolis Colts QB Matt Ryan
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - Deshaun Watson. Matt Ryan. Davante Adams. Khalil Mack. Carson Wentz. What we call "2022 free agency" on the following offseason report card was really defined by a handful of blockbuster trades involving some of the NFL's biggest names. So naturally Walkthrough and Football Outsiders are really grading all of the transactions so far, from trades to signings to re-signings to franchise taggings, with some retirements and releases sprinkled in and three void years tacked onto the end for New Orleans Saints fans.

The "rubric" for these report cards is self-explanatory. Disclaimers about there being plenty of offseason left and the fact that it takes three-to-30 years to evaluate any NFL decision are self-evident. You are here for the Buffalo Bills praise and the Green Bay Packers slander, so let's get on with it.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: A+
Coherent Plan: A
Overall Grade: A

There's much more to the Bills' offseason than Von Miller. DaQuan Jones and Tim Settle offset the loss of Harrison Phillips and reinforce the interior defensive line. Rodger Saffold beefs up Josh Allen's protection. O.J. Howard is a useful puzzle piece as a block-first tight end. Case Keenum is a shrewd, low-cost trade acquisition to fill out the quarterback room. And then there were the extensions: center Mitch Morse to maintain quality and continuity on the offensive line and receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie for peanuts in a market where the Jaguars might have offered him $60 million in Baalke Bucks. Finally, there's Miller, a major buff to a pass rush which already ranked seventh in adjusted sack rate in 2021.

It's hard for a Bills-caliber contender to get significantly better in free agency, but Brandon Beane and company pulled it off.

Miami Dolphins

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: B
Coherent Plan: B
Overall Grade: B+

The Dolphins were toodling along at their usual leisurely pace, feasting on a high-bulk, low-protein free agent diet of skill-position role players, Mike McDaniel binkies from the 49ers and special teams aces (Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Alex Ingold, Trent Sherfield, etc.). They looked ready to procrastinate their way through another offseason of tempering expectations: Sure, we finished just shy of the playoffs for two straight years, but there are still plenty of obstacles between us and the Super Bowl. And if there aren't, well make some!

Then: Pow! The Tyreek Hill trade, just one day after the Terron Armstead signing. Suddenly, the Dolphins look like they are making a move to be a cross between this year's Bengals (winning with sheer firepower if the quarterback develops) and the 2019 or 2021 49ers (the heck with the quarterback: we'll YAC-and-sack our way to the top!)

It was a sudden shift, one the Dolphins probably weren't considering when they entered free agency. It also cost them dearly in future draft capital. And it comes with considerable risks: the Bills still rule the division/conference, and Tua Tagovailoa may never be able to reach the pedals on this Lamborghini. But anything is better than another season of half-measures and gear-grinding.

New England Patriots

Improved Roster: C-
Used Resources Well: C
Coherent Plan: D-
Overall Grade: C

Don't shop for new Buccaneers Brady jerseys yet, Patriots faithful: Bill Belichick has a plan! It may look like he's staggering around with no offensive coordinator and a gutted coaching staff and signing binkie All-Last-Decade Team veterans (Devin McCourty, Mathew Slater, James White) while losing 40% of the starting offensive line and replacing J.C. Jackson with some dude from the Texans. But it's all part of a grand strategy so subtle and cunning mere mortals cannot comprehend it! Jackson is guaranteed to flop for the Chargers, because that's what ALL Patriots castoffs do! And Mac Jones will develop FASTER with Joe Judge screaming into one ear and Matt Patricia's pencil digging into the other while the pocket collapses in his face!

But seriously: the Patriots have been losing ground on the Bills since the day after Christmas. Even if we add some bargain free agents over the next month and assume they hit a grand slam in the draft (which they rarely do), the Patriots will still just look like a wild-card team weighed down with mid-tier free agents and fading Super Bowl heroes.

New York Jets

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: A+
Coherent Plan: B
Overall Grade: A-

In addition to reshaping their offense by adding two new tight ends (C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin) and shuffling out a defensive back who no longer wanted to play for them (Marcus Maye) for one who does (D.J. Reed), the Jets took care of a ton of in-house free agents: Braxton Berrios, Mike White, Lamarcus Joyner, Tevin Coleman, Dan Feeney, and more. The additions give Mike LaFleur's offense an identity and Zach Wilson better scaffolding. The retentions are an encouraging sign that Robert Saleh liked some of the things he saw in 2021 and that the Jets aren't falling into the change-for-change's-sake trap.

The Jets upgraded their roster significantly without overspending and set themselves up for a productive draft. In JetsLand, that's as good as it gets, in March or any other month.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Improved Roster: C-
Used Resources Well: C+
Coherent Plan: C
Overall Grade: C

Za'Darius Smith wriggling free before they could haul him into the boat was a big loss for the Ravens. Most of their other moves have been roughly lateral: center Bradley Bozeman for tackle Morgan Moses, safety Marcus Williams for cornerback Anthony Averett. There are also lots of older in-house free agents in the wind at press time (Calais Campbell, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Williams, etc.). A few will likely return, but the Ravens won't be able to afford many.

The Ravens hope to get much better by getting much healthier in 2022, and they are keeping a little bit of money carved out in case Lamar Jackson gets around to emailing them about an extension. Unfortunately, the rest of the division and conference isn't exactly waiting around for a bunch of running backs to rehab or for Jackson to crack the spine on Contract Negotiations 101. Like the Patriots, the Ravens are stuck in second gear in an Autobahn conference.

Cincinnati Bengals

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: A+
Coherent Plan: A+
Overall Grade: A

The Bengals wisely bided their time after adding guards Ted Karras and Alex Cappa at the start of free agency, steering away from the pricey Terron Armstead/Duane Brown market and instead leaping on La'el Collins the moment the Cowboys jettisoned him. They have now added enough upgrades to Joe Burrow's protection to select the best available athlete in the draft instead of scooping up whatever offensive lineman falls to them with the 31st pick.

Hayden Hurst arrives as an affordable, acceptable alternative to C.J. Uzomah (it's not like there are many targets left to spread around) and Larry Ogunjobi could return after failing his physical with the Bears. But really, this Bengals free agency period was all about turning the team's one major weakness into a potential strength. And they still had $24 million in cap space as of press time!

Cleveland Browns:

Improved Roster: A+
Used Resources Well: C+
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: Incomplete

Yeah, there's a lot to parse here.

The Browns are a much better, very different team with Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper in the lineup. The price tag in draft capital to acquire both was hefty but not crippling: the Browns still possess second- and third-round picks this season. Their cap situation also remains manageable, at least for 2022 and 2023: Watson's contract has been wedged into the space the Browns have been carving out for a Baker Mayfield extension for the past year or so. As for the "plan:" upgrading at quarterback when already strong at other key positions certainly makes sense.

But…

Pricing in the various layers of Watson risk is a little beyond a humble 32-team free-agent grading feature. There's also a sense around the league that the Watson trade came down from the ownership level, leaving Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski in scramble mode to assemble the rest of the Browns roster. There are lots of tiny details still to be sorted out, like what to do with Mayfield in what has suddenly become a dried-up veteran quarterback market.

The Watson trade neither places the Browns immediately on the road to the Super Bowl nor the highway to hell. There are a lot of potential outcomes in between, and not even Doctor Strange would be able to choose the most likely one at this moment.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Improved Roster: B-
Used Resources Well: B
Coherent Plan: C-
Overall Grade: B-

Mitch Trubisky is an affordable band-aid at quarterback. James Daniels and Mason Cole should lift the Steelers' ranking in adjusted line yards from 28th to perhaps 20th or so. Myles Jack for Joe Schobert is a modest upgrade at a premium price. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington are all gone, but who needs diva receivers, right? The Steelers are poised to keep treading wild-card water with their sacks-and-YAC formula. But tread water they will.

AFC South

Houston Texans

Improved Roster: B-
Used Resources Well: B+
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: B

Procrastinating on Deshaun Watson for a solid year until his legal situation became (incrementally) less murky and multiple teams were ready for a gee-golly bidding war turned out to be the right move. But let's not pretend that was some brilliant plan by the Texans front office: it was just indecision and wishful thinking that ended up "paying off" (if you ignore the team's comic irrelevance in 2021 and assume the ship sailed on them ever, you know, keeping, placating, and building around Watson).

The Texans now have a stockpile of extra first-round picks, their usual "let's look busy" allocation of mid-tier free-agent additions and subtractions, and a plan to build around Lovie Smith and Davis Mills. That third item effectively negates the first two and reminds us that the Texans' underlying problem remains the man behind the curtain.

Indianapolis Colts

Improved Roster: C+
Used Resources Well: B
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: C+

Welcome to the Indianapolis Retirement Home for Almost Great Quarterbacks!

The 2020-2022 Colts are just the 2018-2021 Denver Broncos, only with a greater flair for the dramatic. The Broncos, you recall, convinced themselves they were one caretaker quarterback away from the Super Bowl each year and kept casting their lot with dreary midmarket middle managers such as Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, or Teddy Bridgewater. The Colts prefer to take bigger swings on last-legs legends like Philip Rivers, newcomer Matt Ryan, or Carson Wentz, who aged eight years for every season he was in Philly.

The recent Colts have had more success than the recent Broncos, mostly because they play in a division where one team is run by a youth pastor and another by guys who couldn't identify Aaron Donald in a police lineup. But they keep finishing second to a team that runs a 1974 offense behind an Adam Gase reclamation project. And their response, each time it happens, is to extend the Andrew Luck Retirement Crisis Management Plan for yet another year instead of getting on with life. Based on my Twitter mentions, Colts fans have Stockholm Syndrome about the whole situation and now actively root for near-wild-card seasons led by pricey quarterbacks.

Ryan is toast, folks. Expensive, immobile toast. The rest of their moves were a minor net positive, but the Colts currently have no left tackle and are thin at wide receiver. And they have no first-round pick, of course. But Ryan will get the Colts through a nine-win season and into the seventh wild-card spot before collapsing into a heap of ossified bones, just in time for Chris Ballard to ignore the 2023 quarterback draft class and give Kirk Cousins the eye.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Improved Roster: A-
Used Resources Well: C-
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: C-

Everyone except Jason Mendoza-level superfans landed in the same place with the Jaguars' out-of-the-gate free-agent spree: they clearly got better, but at what cost? Trent Baalke was clearly negotiating against himself on the Christian Kirk and Evan Engram deals and making change-for-change's-sake semi-lateral moves when swapping out Andrew Norwell for Brandon Scherff and Myles Jack for Foye Oluokon.

A more successful franchise would earn some benefit-of-the-doubt for these moves, which superficially don't look too different from the 2021 Patriots' free agent spree. The Jaguars overspend like this several times per decade and traditionally end up with nothing to show for it but dead money charges instead of supplemental picks two years later. Nothing about their latest splurge suggests that things will be different this time.

Tennessee Titans

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: B+
Coherent Plan: B+
Overall Grade: B

The Robert Woods trade salvaged an otherwise dreary free-agency period for the Titans. Woods, Austin Hooper, and Trenton Cannon spruce up the team's playmaking corps at WR2, TE1, and RB2, and Julio Jones was just playing out the string anyway. Keeping center Ben Jones on a team-friendly contract was also a significant move. The Titans' "coherent plan" boils down to:

  • Feast on the AFC South bottom-feeders;
  • Earn high playoff seeding;
  • Hope to get lucky.

It may not be the most brilliant plan in the world, but it's appropriate, and the Titans are once again in position to carry it out.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: A
Coherent Plan: A
Overall Grade: A

The best arguments against the Russell Wilson trade, Randy Gregory signing, and smaller complementary moves the Broncos made in March boil down to:

  • Going all-in is risky and scary and therefore bad; or
  • The AFC West is too tough so why try?

Both arguments make more sense when tweeting from a coffee shop than when running an NFL organization that has been stagnating for over half a decade. The Broncos risked not even having a playoff appearance to show for their strong 2018-2020 drafts if they kept twiddling their thumbs at quarterback.

The risk/reward ratio on the Wilson trade favorable, and the Broncos made supplementary moves (Gregory, linebacker Alex Singleton, re-signing linebacker Josey Jewell). to backstop the trade by reinforcing their defense. The Wilson gamble may fail, but doing less would have guaranteed failure.

Kansas City Chiefs

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: C
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: D

The Tyreek Hill trade feels like the end of a blissful youthful summer. Oh, the fun we had! But nothing lasts forever. The salary cap beckons us back to reality. The Chiefs needed Hill to agree to a significant contract overhaul if they had any hopes of propping up a defense which had already lost cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes. Hill understood his market value. It was time to part on the beach and sunset and get back to practical matters like acquiring first- and second-round picks to add cornerbacks and edge rushers and converting the Cheetah budget into offers for second-tier free agents. So end the salad days. Here's looking at you, kid. We'll always have Super Bowl LIV.

Trading Hill was not the Chiefs' original plan. It's a logical pivot, but not an optimal one. The Chiefs traded a spark of brilliance for a measure of stability. Maybe it was necessary. Perhaps it was inevitable. But even if the Chiefs rip up the draft and somehow emerge a tiny bit better than they were before, they will never be quite as much fun again.

Las Vegas Raiders

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: C+
Coherent Plan: C-
Overall Grade: B-

The Raiders see themselves as a team that reached the 2021 playoffs with an interim coach and therefore could build aggressively for the short term with the Davante Adams trade and Chandler Jones signing. The rest of humanity sees the Raiders as a wobbly 2021 wild-card fluke in the NFL's toughest division that needs a floor-to-rafters rebuild. Mark Davis is the one writing the checks, and Josh McDaniels has much more to gain from a few nine- or 10-win seasons than from a purge, so here we are.

Lost among the headline-grabbing deals were a handful of McDaniels "Patriots guyz" additions (Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson in place of Alec Ingold, Jones in a way), the gutting of the linebacker corps (not a terrible thing), and a Rock Ya-Sin/Darius Phillips/Anthony Averett rebuild at cornerback (necessary).

All of the comings and goings leave the Raiders +700 to win the AFC West this year, with no first-round picks for two years and significant money tied up in a 33-year-old edge rusher and a receiver who might not be quite the same without His Moody Majesty throwing to him. We shouldn't fall into the "the AFC West is too hard, so surrender" trap (see: the Broncos report card), but sometimes the odds are telling you all you need to know about a team's offseason plan.

Los Angeles Chargers

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: A
Coherent Plan: B+
Overall Grade: A

The best defense is often an excellent offense, and the best run defense is often an excellent offense AND an excellent pass defense, The Chargers added Sebastian Joseph-Day to a run defense which ranked 30th in DVOA last year, but Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson should provide so many sacks, stops, and turnovers that the occasional 8-yard burst up the gut won't matter much anyway.

In terms of resource usage: resigning Mike Williams was a quietly important move, adding Mack while retaining a first-round pick was brilliant, and converting Justin Herbert's rookie-contract savings into 2022 value—taking on a little extra Mack money to broker the trade, winning the Jackson bidding war—was the right move. This is how an NFL team on the verge of contention should attack a short-term window.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: D
Coherent Plan: D-
Overall Grade: D

We're at an inflection point in the Cowboys' endless binge-purge cycle: they're shedding salaries (Amari Cooper, La'el Collins), getting out-maneuvered for their own free agents (Randy Gregory), and watching valuable role players erode away (Cedrick Wilson, Connor Williams) while adding substandard replacements (Dante Fowler, James Washington). They're doing it all at a time when they would be justified to push money down the line in pursuit of a short Super Bowl window, Rams-style.

One underlying Cowboys issue is their need to turn contract negotiations into soap operas: the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott sagas, whatever the hell happened with Gregory, the Cooper trade-contract-trade epoch which somehow only lasted 2.5 seasons. For every ultra-friendly Tyron Smith/Tank Lawrence deal Jerrah nails, he ends up overspending for a Zeke or Jaylon Smith or negotiating until his own back is to the wall with Prescott or Gregory.

While the AFC is an ever-escalating arms race, the NFC is a conference of attrition: it will probably be won by the contender which backslides the least. The Cowboys have slipped substantially. Their hope is that teams like the Packers end up sliding even further.

New York Giants

Improved Roster: C-
Used Resources Well: C
Coherent Plan: B+
Overall Grade: C+

The Giants are rebuilding and they know it. This was a harm-reduction free agency period for them: departures such as Logan Ryan help the team move on financially from the Dave Gettleman fiasco, while Mark Glowinski brings affordable competence to the offensive line and Tyrod Taylor should provide just enough of a nudge/quasi-alternative to keep the Daniel Jones conversation (outside and inside the organization) honest.

The best news for the Giants last week were the Cam Robinson extension and Brandon Scherff signing in Jacksonville; the Laremy Tunsil extension for the Texans; and all the quarterback moves. The Jaguars will probably select edge rusher Aidan Richardson at the top of the draft. The Texans are also likely to pursue a defender. The Falcons and Panthers remain in the rookie quarterback market. That means a top offensive tackle will be available for the Giants fifth overall and an excellent Best Available Athlete could fall to them with the 10th pick. Again, Joe Shoen knows this, and knows that the goal is to build for 2023 and beyond, which is why inactivity is good activity in East Rutherford.

Philadelphia Eagles

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: B+
Coherent Plan: A
Overall Grade: B+

The Eagles added a top-tier edge rusher in Haason Reddick and a viable WR2/WR3 in Zach Pascal while restructuring Fletcher Cox and Darius Slay to stay solvent. The departures of Alex Singleton and Hassan Ridgeway won't matter much.

Free agency was just an appetizer for a draft where three first-round picks are the main course. The Eagles were wise to neither gorge themselves nor purge when it wasn't necessary.

Washington (Ugh) Commanders

Improved Roster: C
Used Resources Well: D
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: D+

The best thing about the Carson Wentz trade was that it was over quickly. The Commanders stayed out of the Deshaun Watson sideshow and weren't dragged into any Matt Ryan/Baker Mayfield intrigue. Wentz already feels like a bad decision Washington made two years ago and now must simply cope with. Plus, a $22-million salary, a third-round pick, and some hot-dog blazer memes are starting to look like a small price to pay for a guy who can hover in the top 25 in DVOA and won't show up on any police blotters.

The rest of the Commanders offseason—swapping out Brandon Scherff for Andrew Norwell, jettisoning Landon Collins, retaining J.D. McKissic and Cam Sims—is just a bunch of stuff that happened.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Improved Roster: C-
Used Resources Well: B
Coherent Plan: B
Overall Grade: B-

Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson are gone, as are guard James Daniels, defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, and returner/receiver Jakeem Grant. A whole squadron of newcomers are on board, some as lateral replacements (Lucas Patrick for Daniels), others as curiosities. (Byron Pringle and Equanimous St. Brown could host a "WR4s on Great Offenses" podcast. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes would never be guests.)

It all adds up to a rebuilding team shuffling money and manpower around. The second-round pick the Bears received for Mack may be their most interesting—and valuable—acquisition of the offseason so far.

Detroit Lions

Improved Roster: C+
Used Resources Well: C-
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: C-

Zzzzzzzzzzzz Oops! Sorry: the Lions offseason lulled us into a deep coma!

D.J. Chark is a solid acquisition, Trey Flowers a logical subtraction. Cornerback Mike Hughes is a perma-prospect who appeared to be coming around for the Chiefs last year. Other than those minor moves and some even more minor ones, the Lions have busily signed in-house free agents, which is a totally normal thing for a 3-13-1 team to want to do.

Like the Jets, the Lions deserve some credit for prioritizing in-house players and avoiding a silly Jaguars-style splurge. But the Jets at least have a quarterback prospect, and their acquisitions gave the offense a sense of direction. The Lions look eager to enjoy another mulligan year of Dan Campbell soundbites and backdoor covers. We'll reserve judgment until we see what Brad Holmes does with two first-round picks and an early second-rounder. But it's time to start moving forward, fellas.

Green Bay Packers

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: C-
Coherent Plan: F all the minuses on earth
Overall Grade: F

It takes two to tango in a dysfunctional codependency. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is as prickly as a porcupine petting zoo, but the Mark Murphy/Brian Gutekunst braintrust really gets their jollies from trolling him, even if it hurts the team.

Yes, yes, Davante Adams supposedly wanted to play for the Raiders, the Packers outbid them, blah blah blah, spinney-spin-spin. The Packers held Adams' rights. They're a Super Bowl contender. There was no reason to trade him two days into free agency, less than a week after Rodgers signed his latest money-as-surrogate-for-mutual-respect contract, except that they liked the price and seem to enjoy the ever-roiling soap opera as much as Rodgers does.

Also, the Packers lost two offensive linemen: Lucas Patrick and Rodgers bestie Billy Turner. Writing Za'Darius Smith's loss off as a necessary compromise, the Packers could have kept most of the core of their roster together by doing Saints stuff. And Saints stuff is 100% justified for a 14-team win with a Hall of Fame quarterback in a conference with few serious contenders, as opposed to the Saints. If the Packers really care about future draft picks and resources, they should have just let Rodgers play the field.

Assemble all the receiver-heavy Rodgers fanfic mock draft scenarios you like: the Packers have guaranteed another Super Bowl second runner-up finish in 2022, at best, with their quarterback beefing and bloviating each week to everyone on earth with a Stitcher account.

Minnesota Vikings

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: F
Coherent Plan: C-
Overall Grade: D

It was tempting to give the Vikings an F-minus-minus-minus-minus in every category simply for extending Kirk Cousins' contract even further into the future. But in a league where teams trade for Carson Wentz and break the bank for Deshaun Watson consolation prizes, even a premium-priced Cousins starts to look pretty good.

Adam Thielen's contract extension is a quieter but larger problem: Thielen turns 32 this summer, has a mounting injury history, and is settling into a WR2 role; he can still play, but he's not the sort of player a rebuilding team should be extending its relationship with. Meanwhile, the Vikings tried to trade or renegotiate with Danielle Hunter but ended up eating his $26-million cap hit all at once. Then they randomly added Za'Darius Smith because ... they're contending???

Cleaning up the excesses of the Rick Spielman/Mike Zimmer "Let's pay Rolls Royce prices for Hondas" era is going to take a while, especially when the new braintrust keeps making more messes.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: D
Coherent Plan: D+
Overall Grade: D+

You can read my thoughts on the Matt Ryan trade here.

Two weeks ago, the Falcons were restructuring Ryan's contract yet again to exchange 2022 cap space for future financial nightmares, so it is obvious that they didn't really have a "coherent plan." And gumming up Ryan's contract so badly that they could only get a third-round pick in return isn't exactly an example of "using resources well." But at least the Falcons can start the pre-rebuilding process, something they have been putting off for about three years.

Carolina Panthers

Improved Roster: C+
Used Resources Well: A
Coherent Plan: C+
Overall Grade: B

The Panthers did a fine job dusting themselves off after they fell off the Deshaun Watson chase. Center Bradley Bozeman and guard Austin Corbett are quality additions for an offensive line which finished 25th in adjusted line yards and 27th in adjusted sack rate in 2021. Haason Reddick's departure stings, but the Panthers invested in lots of in-house free agents (headlined by Donte Jackson) and near-free agents (DJ Moore) while parting ways with players unlikely to help them moving forward (A.J. Bouye, hopefully Cam Newton before things get really cringe).

If the Panthers get healthier, stick Kenny Pickett under center, and prevent Matt Rhule from doing actual harm, they could be sneaky competitive in 2022. It's like the first year of a proper rebuild, just delayed until Year 3!

New Orleans Saints

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: C+
Coherent Plan: C
Overall Grade: C

Deshaun Watson would have been the Saints' "get out of cap purgatory free" card. Instead, the Saints took out a seventh mortgage to clear $29 million in 2022 cap space for … Jameis Winston? The fact that the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz and the Steelers opted for Mitch Trubisky should tell you how impressed the rest of the NFL really was by Winston's pre-ACL injury semi-hot streak last year.

The Saints were now theoretically $14 million over the 2023 salary cap before adding Winston and are showing nearly $168 million in liabilities for 2024, with players like Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis (who will each be 35 before that season starts), Alvin Kamara (a running back with legal issues), and Taysom Hill (insert wisecrack here) carrying big numbers or voidable years two seasons down the road. This lack of future flexibility isn't just an anchor the Saints will be dragging for years, but it's the reason they could not add the bells and whistles Watson clearly wanted in a new contract: guaranteed money has to go somewhere, and the Saints ran out of cap nooks and crannies.

That said, this year's cap machinations were a wonder to behold, like a fraternity pledge stuffing a billiard ball in his mouth or a drunk landing an airplane in a hurricane. If the Saints' goal is to prove that they can remain quasi-competitive while drowning in revolving debt, then mission accomplished! If they hope to build a Super Bowl contender in the next five years, however, they either needed Watson or a little common-sense credit repair.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Improved Roster: C
Used Resources Well: A+++
Coherent Plan: A
Overall Grade: A

The "resource" in this case is Tom Brady's value as a recruiter/recruitment tool. Brady also provides full justification for any "Die Broke" cap management tactics. Adding Russell Gage as a WR3 was a smart move. Trading for Shaq Mason to replace Ali Marpet was a grace note.

There are tons of aging Buccaneers veterans sitting on the free-agent aftermarket right now. A few will rejoin Brady's Heroes (Gronk), but someone is going to toss leftover cap bucks at Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, etc. The Buccaneers roster won't be as solid as it was in 2020 and 2021, but at the Super Bowl shortlist level, free agency is more about maintenance and adaptability than improvement.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: C-
Coherent Plan: D
Overall Grade: D

Chandler Jones, Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds, and Jordan Hicks are all gone. Zach Ertz, James Conner, edge rusher Devon Kennard and TE2 Maxx Williams (among others) are all back, which would be great if the Cardinals were a 13-win team trying to keep the band together, not an annual disappointment in a fiercely competitive division.

The Cardinals are, at best, wandering around in circles. Think of them as the Dolphins of the Desert, but with a less vocal fanbase/press pool.

Los Angeles Rams

Improved Roster: C
Used Resources Well: B
Coherent Plan: A+
Overall Grade: B

Cap management can be deceptively easy. When a team is in a Super Bowl window, it must do anything possible to extend that window. And the Rams are obviously in a Super Bowl window. That means Matthew Stafford extensions and splashy Allen Robinson additions make perfect sense.

Everything comes with a price, of course. Andrew Whitworth retired, Von Miller is gone, Robert Woods netted pennies on the dollar in a trade, and lots of rank-and-file veterans (Darious Williams, Austin Corbett, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Johnny Hekker) signed elsewhere and must be replaced with whatever sixth-round picks the Rams have lying around. But the Rams did re-sign Whitworth replacement Joseph Noteboom, among others. They know what they are doing. And they know that it can pay off, because it already has.

San Francisco 49ers

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: C
Coherent Plan: B
Overall Grade: B

The 49ers defense ranked 31st against No. 1 wide receivers, so signing Charvarius Ward was a sound move. Ward may not be a "shutdown cornerback," but he has proven that he can play at a near-Pro Bowl level on a defense with a strong pass rush.

It's becoming clear that any Jimmy Garoppolo trade will be more of a fizzle than a blockbuster, which lowers the 49ers' "resources" score. At press time, it sounds like John Lynch is trying to milk everything he can from a dry market. It's unlikely they will get more than a Day 3 pick, but with loose cannons like the Seahawks and the Panthers still seeking quarterbacks, anything is possible.

Seattle Seahawks

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: B+
Coherent Plan: C
Overall Grade: C

The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson for draft picks so they could rebuild, but no one seems very convinced: A) that's what they are really doing; or B) that they are capable of pulling it off. Had they replaced Pete Carroll with some Mini-McVay, we'd be penciling Kenny Pickett into their plans and extending the Seahawks lots of optimism/benefit-of-the-doubt. But Carroll, one of the most successful coaches in football history? He's old, man.

The rest of the Seahawks' free-agent moves provide little clarity about the team's direction. Re-signing Will Dissly, Sydney Jones, Quandre Diggs, and Rashaad Penny made sense but didn't exactly signal a change in organizational direction. Acquisitions Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, and Uchenna Nwosu don't really address the Seahawks' need positions.

The 2022 Seahawks may emulate the 2021 Saints and 2020 Patriots: hovering around .500, beating weaker opponents based on professionalism/reputation/homefield advantage, and hoping a quarterback solution drops into their lap next year.

Comments

139 comments, Last at 31 Mar 2022, 9:31am

1 Re: Bengals -- And they…

Re: Bengals -- And they still had $24 million in cap space as of press time!

Well, yeah. Mike Brown squeezes a dollar so hard he could turn coal into diamonds.

I think the long view of the Ravens and Steelers' actions is that they consider that the Bengals and Browns remain the Bengals and Browns, and will continue to do Bengals and Browns things into the future. Every generation or so, the Bengals ride a Hall of Very Good QB to a solitary SB appearance where they lose to a California team on a crushing late dive, and then disappear like Keiser Soze. Like the Bengals, the Browns have been cursed to wander the desert ever since they drove Paul Brown out.

43 Give the Bengals and Browns their due...

They always finish the off season with great expectations.  But,

The Bengals have to demonstrate they can handle success and not let it go their heads. 

The Browns have to learn how to function as an organization at a high level. It's easy to blame the recent disfunction on those who are gone, or going, but where is the leadership? They also have Garrett on a big contract. They will have a tough time maintaining a quality roster.

The Ravens have to figure how to sign Jackson. What was his response to Watson's contract? 

The Steelers have addressed some of their needs and they have to hope Trubisky is the player Chicago saw prior to the draft. I don't think they reach for a QB in the draft, but if one falls, they might pick him up.

2 Honestly, that's a pretty…

Honestly, that's a pretty charitable grade for NE. They probably had one of worst off-seasons. Well, the silly spending last year caught up. 

6 To steal a phrase, nothing…

To steal a phrase, nothing said "Rolls-Royce prices for Honda results" more than the Patriots' spending spree last year. Did anybody really think Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne were going to be the key difference-makers for a team with a rookie QB and a mediocre defense? Because they made the first two top-5 players in the NFL in average contract value, and made Agholor top-25 in average contract value, while none of the players had risen beyond the level of "decent starter".

16 Hold the Kendrick Bourne slander

Jonnu Smith has obviously not lived up to his contract, and how Agholor got that much money from Belichick astounded me, but Henry in particular has been a fantastic addition, a great RZ weapon who Mac connects well with, and Kendrick Bourne has been the first WR I've seen create something out of nothing for years in New England.

 

The numbers bear it out too, with Henry as the #2 TE by DVOA (5th by DYAR), and Kendrick Bourne who was the #1 WR by DVOA which I doubt many would expect, and was 14th by DYAR.

 

Meanwhile they also bear out the disappointing (thus far) Jonnu Smith 53rd/55 by DYAR among qualifying TEs and similarly woeful by DVOA, with an easy completion he tipped into a pick 6 his season (and perhaps career) lowlight vs the Saints in what had been to that point a competitive game. Similarly Agholor was poor finishing 62nd/91 qualifying WRs by DYAR, and his contract far exceeds what little value he brought to the team.

 

There are poor FA acquisitions to complain about the pats making, but half the ones you mention were very good!

133 Henry working out is funny…

Henry working out is funny because he was clearly the one New England was less confident about based on the contract. Smith is far harder to abandon.

The big issue with the Henry/Smith signings is that their contracts were absolute top end for tight ends, which made no sense since the market was constrained last year.

Judon was a great signing, high talent and good value. Henry was meh - high production but poor value. Agholor and Smith were terrible: low production, poor value.

14 Hi, welcome to FO. We like…

Hi,

welcome to FO. We like to talk football, hypothetical punters and catholic girls here and sometimes the writers defend themselves from baseless accusations from the commenters that the writers are NE homers.

 

31 they had no cap room

I don't know what people wanted them to do.  Keep JC Jackson at a high price?  Clearly Belichick doesn't think Jackson deserved that.

We see this second-guessing every offseason.  "You should have kept Logan Mankins!"  "How can you not pay Lawyer Milloy?"  "You traded Chandler Jones??"  

Yes, they had a lot more cap space last season, and they used it.  I'd say they had a mix of hits and misses - Jonnu Smith being the miss and Matthew Judon being a clear hit.  I'm happy with Hunter Henry's production level, and Jalen Mills was reasonable until he got hurt (certainly his replacements were much worse).

They had, what, $10-$12 million in cap space?  That's nowhere near enough to close the gap to Buffalo.  So, though Mike thinks they don't have a plan, clearly they do.  At least on the player side.

The coaching situation is another issue.  That my persist until the nepotism question is resolved.  So far we're not seeing enough from Steve B. to justify any elevation to the DC title.  And who knows how the offense will survive McDaniels' departure? 

 

3 Re: Raiders. The analytics…

Re: Raiders.

The analytics answer to teams that suck is to get out of the early 1st round, because those picks have negative surplus value. 
http://www.profootballlogic.com/articles/nfl-draft-pick-value/

It's probably bad process, but they may have backed into a 'correct' answer.

15 I don't think this is still true

I don't think this is true since the 2011 CBA set the slotting system for draft pick contract value. It definitely was true before that, but top of the first round picks cost much less (comparatively) now compared to before 2011. So it is better to have a higher pick, not a lower pick. Not as much better as the Jimmy Johnson chart would lead you to believe, but better.

17 I used to do draft analysis…

I used to do draft analysis like this; which heavily concentrates on the expected value of draft picks. As I later learned in finance, you also have to look at the variation in outcomes, not just the raw expected value.

For example, if you model the probability of acquring a top talent by pick, suddenly the graph's logarithmic curve stays sharp over I believe the top 10 picks and then flattens quite a lot. So indeed, the 6th pick in the draft carries a lot of potential premium way over the 68th pick.

In addition, how one defines the "cost" of a player is a bit hard to define because teams can move around money such that an onerous contract in full terms can get passed onto rebuilding years when the team is effectively done competing (Saints, Eagles); or can be shifted into the present when the QB rookie contracts make them big bargains(Chargers). 

It would probably take a ton of meta analysis to see where the inflection point is; but the general takeaway I think is correct. Somewhere in the first round, it is better to trade down for more seconds and thirds than it is to keep the pick relative to the cost. 

28 This is based on the post…

This is based on the post-2011 CBA salaries. (I provided a link!)

I generally agree with the other poster that the salary analysis is overly-simplistic and assumes away a bunch of problems that it likely should not. 

Although it may well-capture the behavior of the Mike Browns and John Fishers of the world -- guys who legitimately do not care about winning so long as they are profitable, and accordingly aim to reach a minimum revenue target at the smallest possible expenditure. They care about their surplus, not whether or not they won. I don't think it captures the behavior of a Jones or Davis at all. Guy who don't care what their surplus was if they didn't win.

And this is why I won't cheer for a Brown or a Fisher team. It's easier to do that by walking down to an ATM and cheering on the money.

50 because those picks have…

because those picks have negative surplus value. 

All top contracts have negative surplus value, because the number of players available with that production drops off. Derek Carr produces way more than 50% of Mahomes/Rodgers/Prescott's on-field value (look at EYds, not DYAR - a zero DYAR QB still costs quite a lot of money), but he's paid closer to 50%. This implies that the top contracts have negative value.

The production curve monotonically falls from the top of the draft to the bottom, and the cost per production at the top end is way, way cheaper than the only other way to get it (free agency). Yes, later picks are cheap-er compared to how they produce... but all picks are cheap.

53 Does Carr produce over 50…

Does Carr produce over 50 percent of the value of Mahomes?

In a literal sense yes, but I am not sure I like phrasing it that way.

When it comes to QB play, the last X percent that drives an elite QB over a good one is enormous and I don't think that difference is reflected by the difference in their contracts.

Short of comically bad roster construction, Mahomes' presence on the Chiefs means they are almost always playoff contenders. Better than average talent and they are sb contenders. Very good talent and they are major favorites. The same simply isn't true for Carr. That reality provides tremendous flexibility in roster construction and time, whereas the Vikings with Cousins have a shorter and more inflexible window to build around. 

I don't know if this same logic applies all positions. It appears that way with tight ends and maybe kickers?

65 Basically, value isn't…

Basically, value isn't linear bc you only have X of each position. A 2 WAR QB is better than 2 1.5 WAR QBs bc...you can only play 1 QB. Less obvious with other positions bc you bring in Tyreek Hill and it just pushes your other guys down. I'm sure someone will remember what the econ term for this is. 

72 Yup! And the reason that's…

Yup! And the reason that's true is that you can't stack surplus value. You can't get 2 Derek Carrs to replace 1 Aaron Rodgers.

Hence the reason why those Massey-Thaler arguments are nuts. The price spikes for high picks because the demand is higher. The free market value's suppressed because of the salary cap, not because they're not worth it.

87 > he's paid closer to 50%…

> he's paid closer to 50%

For now. I believe Carr was the highest-paid guy when he signed his contract, which is now in its last year. He's not going to get paid Rodgers money, but he will be back up there soon. 

The Raider Rebuild scenario would need to involve trading Carr for multiple picks. With Wilson & Watson on the market, that probably wasn't happening. 

97 In absolute dollars, yes,…

In absolute dollars, yes, but that was a fluke by timing. In terms of cap adjusted dollars it wasn't even remotely close. I mean, it was basically at Brees's *one year* contract from a year earlier.

Carr's apparently looking for $35M/yr, which sounds about right. If you'd prefer a different example, you could use Cousins or Tannehill, too.

110 Well, sure. But I don't see…

Well, sure. But I don't see many commenters or columnists here "cap adjusting" any of these new deals. The cap is exploding, except for the pandemic payback period. Rodgers' salary has more than doubled for example. Carr would not be smart to take a long-term deal at $35M/yr, or he might find himself at the bottom of the franchise QB payrange again. 

111 Well, sure. But I don't see…

Well, sure. But I don't see many commenters or columnists here "cap adjusting" any of these new deals.

Oh, sorry if that wasn't clear. I absolutely do. Rodgers, Mahomes, Allen, and Watson all have record-setting deals even when cap adjusted. Carr's never was.

4 That means a top offensive…

That means a top offensive tackle will be available for the Giants fifth overall and an excellent Best Available Athlete could fall to them with the 10th pick. 

 

Giants have a 5th & 7th, not 10th. Yeah, I've outed myself as a Giants fan.

7 The Eagles are a great…

The Eagles are a great example of how a turnaround is achievable even though everyone has penciled you in for a deep rebuild.

The other often ignored advantage of actually having your first round picks is the ability to parlay then into more first rounders. The eagles effectively traded down a few spots to acquire middle round first rounder and then found a willing patsy and got a third.

Hurts also shows the wisdom of trying your hand at a developmental QB and giving him more than one suicide mission season to prove himself. At worst, he's a bottom tier starter but he looks to be more than that already.

Hard to believe where the Eagles were this time a year ago and now.

19 I don't really agree there:…

I don't really agree there: Philly in 2020 was way better than they actually showed. That part was obvious - they went into the season shallow at OL and got hammered - and then whatever the hell happened in the front office just blew everything up. The reason everyone's opinion on Philly tanked was because they thought they'd be a playoff team and they face-planted (for reference, by Pythagorean wins you'd expect them to be more around like 6-10 that year, not 4-11-1).

Then 2021 comes and opinions on them are super-low, and (in my opinion) they overachieve a bit. Mainly because the OL had a friggin year. But c'mon, they weren't an actual playoff team. We all knew they'd get pasted in the opening round, and they did. It wasn't even remotely competitive.

But all the criticisms from 2020 are still there. They're still old at their absolute best positions (Johnson, Cox, Kelce) and the high money there (plus others who are old) seriously restricted what they could do in free agency. They're carrying $30+M dead this year ($40M+ if you consider Cox a loss) and likely will do so again next year.

Sure, the draft picks give them potential, but they're going to lose Johnson/Kelce soon (good chance they lost Cox last year, really) and none of those guys can be replaced easily.

Honestly, the best thing about the Eagles is that they play in the NFC. They'd get murdered in the AFC.

At worst, he's a bottom tier starter but he looks to be more than that already.

Three of his offensive linemen had absolute beasts of a year. Way, way too early to think he's viable. See also: Foles, Nick.

24 "(for reference, by…

"(for reference, by Pythagorean wins you'd expect them to be more around like 6-10 that year, not 4-11-1)."

I am assuming part of that is because the division was so awful. DVOA painted Philly as the 28th ranked team in 2020. They achieved a whopping 20% + turnaround in one year. If you want to give all of that credit to a healthy o line, fine. Not going to argue.

I don't think they have entered into a contender conversation. As you note, they have quite a few holes. But my point was; this looked like a team running parrell to the Giants for prolonged horror and instead, one season has completely changed their potential outlook. That's how a bad situation can be turned around when all looked hopless a year ago. 

As for Hurts - again not going to make any proclamations, but he definitely acquitted himself well last year. At the very least, he engendered enough optimism that the Eagles should consider him as a starter going into next year. If he improves a bit more, they may have something there provided his cost is not super onerous. 

47 They achieved a whopping 20%…

They achieved a whopping 20% + turnaround in one year. If you want to give all of that credit to a healthy o line, fine. Not going to argue.

Yeah, I think that's about right. Plus I think Wentz just fell apart when he realized his OL was trash (and the receivers disappeared). Some QBs are just seriously dependent on the talent around them (see Foles, Nick). A more "stable" QB wouldn't've tanked so ludicrously bad.

this looked like a team running parrell to the Giants for prolonged horror and instead, one season has completely changed their potential outlook. That's how a bad situation can be turned around when all looked hopless a year ago. 

Oh, see, that's the difference - I never would've put them in the Giants category. That's just not possible - Philly's front office isn't nearly that incompetent. And my "hope" for this year is entirely dependent on their draft. They've got to keep drafting OL/DL early, and it'd be really nice if they realized they're terrible at evaluating rookie WRs and stop trying to be cute.

83 Re: first rounders into more…

Re: first rounders into more first rounders, if I was a Philly fan I would love to see trading one of their picks back to Pittsburgh (#20) or Arizona (#23) for that team's 2023 1st. It's not hard to see either of those teams picking that low next year, so pick up 2 mid-round guys, move down at most 10 spots to grab another, and get a free top-half pick for next year.

8 Rerun

As a Colts fan, I've seen this one before.  Ballard talks himself into having ready replacements on the roster instead of spending actual money to shore up a position of need.  Last year it was pass rush where he let Justin Houston and Denico Autry walk because he had drafted replacements that were ready to take the next step.  Except they didn't.

This year it is left tackle, where a guy they traded a 6th-round draft pick for is going to "get first crack at the job."  So maybe next offseason the Colts will trade for a proper tackle while assuming some other player Ballard has drafted at another position is ready to step up.  Methinks Chris sometimes gets too high on his own supply.

I'm not against building through the draft, but I'm also sick of seeing the Colts carry extra cap space instead of using it to address actual roster needs.

9 Unless the team is a real…

In reply to by Todd S.

Unless the team is a real contender with clearly defined weaknesses that they need to shore up in a pinch to get over the hump, I am in general happier to avoid FA.

FA is how you bloat your cap sheet for negative surplus value.

Teams in contending states can and should bear this cost. Mediocre teams with murky futures shouldn't

11 'Spending $$$ is good!'

Yeah, Mike grades like every free agent signing is going to work out. I mean, splurging on Randy Gregory im-PROVES your grade?!? Dude's the Poster Child for the type of free agent signing most likely to explode in your face.

Seriously, Mike grades like every free agent who played well last year is going to continue playing that well.

26 RE: Gregory

I agree on the substance of your post that Gregory is a very unreliable resource.

 

I have followed this player's career since he was at Nebraska where, like in the pros, he would have random big days and then disappear for 'x' amount of time either within a game or a season.

 

He is as likely to retire before training camp as he is to have a productive season.

34 In general, disagree

The Colts are a threat to get to the playoffs every year because of their division.  Even with Wentz they rated better than the Bengals in a lot of metrics.  They didn't need a splashy edge rusher.  They could have brought back Houston or Autry (or the season before Preston Smith or Za'Darius Smith) without hamstringing themselves long-term.  I would rather have the roster depth for when, for example, Tyquan Lewis gets hurt than additional cap flexibility in 2023.

10 "The price tag in draft…

"The price tag in draft capital to acquire both was hefty but not crippling" 

I guess this line depends on how you define crippling. Because they are out 3!! first rounders. If Watson cannot play, suddenly two of those first rounders could be insanely valuable and the kind of lost equity that could set a franchise back 3-4 years. To me, this trade is as close to mortgaging the future as you can get. 

18 If Watson can't play or is…

If Watson can't play or is anything less than a perennial pro-bowler....this looks REALLY bad. Still, 27 year old elite QB are basically never available without some sort of questions (or a criminally incompetent FO that makes them flee to FA). 

Ignoring the moral issues and the chance he legals himself out of the league(hard to eval that), this is probably one of the few cases where morgaging makes sense in football terms. 

63 It's the NFL, They give him…

It's the NFL, They give him 6 games. He appeals, it gets reduced to like 3. The appeal pushes it back till they play Pitt, NE, NYJ. They win 2 of 3 and it means they lost one game the might have won. (and NE might be bad enough).  He basically gets a slap on the wrist and a 230 million band-aids. 

69 It also depends on the games…

It also depends on the games he misses. If Watson is suspended before the schedule is released, the NFL may intentionally load the Browns' schedule with easy opponents to start. NFL doesn't want him to miss games against BUF, TB, LAC, CIN, BAL, etc.

74 Turns out your right. https:…

Turns out your right.

https://fbschedules.com/2022-cleveland-browns-sched
 

They start off with Commanders, Falcons, Ravens.  (The scheduling computer might not have realized the Ravens should have more first stringers available)

35 Another failure mode not…

Another failure mode not being discussed is the money might convince Watson he needs more than Brady/Rogers levels of influence over the roster and game strategies. While the pay level supports that, I'm not aware of anything in his background to suggest his input would be helpful. 

If he starts to feel emboldened or entitled, he will soon butt heads with the OC, HC and GM. Is the sandbox big enough?

12 uh-huh, uh-huh

Concur here, too. Really, does Mike think the only crippling price tag in draft capital in NFL history was the Herschel Walker trade?

37 aside

In reply to by BigRichie

I'm just amazed that Herschel Walker managed to lose his government job b/c of the Hatch Act.  Who knew the Hatch Act would ever be enforced against anybody?!  

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

13 Makes me laugh that Tanier…

Makes me laugh that Tanier can't get through the introductory paragraph in any of his recent articles without having a dig at the Saints.

20 If you have Joe Schobert and…

If you have Joe Schobert and Devin Bush as linebackers - and you release Joe Schobert and keep Bush, you need your eyes checked or you suffer from a strong case of cognitive dissonance. 

Bush should not be on a starting defense on Sundays.

21 Floor to Rafters Rebuild?

The Raiders have a decent enough number of good young pieces (Waller, Renfrow, Crosby, Miller, Carr by QB standards) that doing a hard reset seems like just praying a reshuffled deck gets you a full house. Im very confused by this conflation of their situation being like the Giants or some other team in cap hell with no QB

25 Dolphins

In fact the Dolphins initiating the rebuild and ditching Tannehill is a great example of why I think some folks are too dismissive of the risks involved in a tear down. I’m of the mind of being forced to rebuild after a failed ramp up is not much different than initiating it yourself. You get to the same place but you took your swing

27 I don't really see a big…

I don't really see a big functional difference in what the Raiders have done vs the Broncos. Honestly, I am not sure who the better team is between the two. 

Sure, Wilson is better than Carr, but he is better than Carr with Adams? And from an overall talent point of view, I prefer the Raiders overall roster to the Broncos overall roster. I could absolutely be proven wrong a year from now if Surtain becomes elite, Chubb stays healthy and finally produces on all that potential; ditto for Jeudy. But those are maybe's, not proven things. 

I can't quite square in my head why Tanier thinks the Broncos giving up so much for Wilson given their state is any less shaky than the Raiders and Browns doing the deals they did. 

36 Carr falls into that Cousins…

Carr falls into that Cousins range we used to consider Stafford to be in -- guys we think of as sub-par because narratives are sticky (remember: narratives are born by sports writers. Sports writers are idiots. If they weren't, they would have real journalism jobs). But those guys are annoyingly hard to replace with something better, because they aren't actually sub-par. It's nearly impossible to replace them with something both better and cheaper, unless you randomly get positively lucky.

41 in defense of sportswriters

Clearly the best of the lot are not idiots.  I'd take Dr. Z over any talking head on cable TV any day of the week.  We just have so many sportswriters these days that there is no shortage of idiots. And if you add in talk radio, it can be mind-numbing.

As for "real journalism jobs," there are few of those left.  Most of the major news media have been gutted over the past few decades to the point where very little actual journalism is being done any more. 

67 gradient

As with anything else, there is a gradient. Not a bell curve, unfortunately, but if it were, old Dr. Z would be on the 3 std deviations level. When I get depressed I go back and read his old articles, like a theatre buff goes and reads their old college shakespeare books.

Tanier ain't bad, stop clowning on him, you're here for a reason. The residence of football analytics is way more intelligent than most of the clickbait sites. But yeah, analytic and intelligent are not interchangeable...

76 I wasn't actually clowning…

In reply to by NYChem

I wasn't actually clowning the guys here. Not even the guys who left for a vacuous hole like ESPN (RIP Barnwell). 

This is sports for nerds. Not the frothing churn that passes for sports commentary.

29 Overall grade for the…

Overall grade for the Cowboys seems fine (they've certainly taken a step back from a team that was one of but clearly not *the* best team in the NFC last year), but I don't think it's fair to say they don't have a coherent plan. They've been a "build from within and retain our own" team for several years now, and that's exactly what they have done this year. The execution on Randy Gregory in particular obviously didn't work, and they've chosen to do some cuts to free cap space, but the plan itself seems pretty obvious and coherent. Opinions on whether that's the correct plan can vary, of course.

73 I agree. Many seem to think…

I agree. Many seem to think the Cowboys haven't gone "all in", but after the 2018 season, they did go all in -- just with their own players instead of free agents.The over paying of Zeke and Jaylon make this clear, along with the retention of D-Law and Cooper to mega deals at the time. Maybe if covid hadn't ruined the cap, they could have kept Coop for another year.

The Randy Gregory fiasco is weird; the reason he gave for leaving is impulsive and childish, so I kind of feel like he really just wanted to smoke pot all day in Colorado, and that he would have done something eventually to make the Cowboys regret the deal.

96 The Cowboys have the…

The Cowboys have the stipulation about loss of guaranteed money in the event of a fine in literally every single contract except for Dak Prescott's. Gregory's agent, Peter Schaffer, knows this, because he's also the agent of former Cowboys player La'el Collins, but he decided to play ignorant when finding out about this "surprise" addition to the contract, probably to appease Gregory. Gregory, like many NFL players, has an inflated ego that's also pretty fragile, so it's no real surprise that he took such an offense to standard contract language. Shaffer gave the Cowboys the chance to rescind that part of the contract. For once, the Joneses didn't let themselves get bent over the barrel in a contract negotiation and decided to let him walk.

105 This doesn't really alter…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

This doesn't really alter much to me. It was still presumptuous of Schaffer to think that the Cowboys would be using the Bronco's contract exactly as it was presented, when the only person the Joneses ever made an exemption for with that language was their franchise quarterback. Gregory certainly didn't merit special treatment. He's not even the leader of the defense.

What is interesting to me is the theory that Schaffer intentionally tried to rile up Gregory due to bad blood with a previous trade negotiation involving La'el Collins. It would also explain how the Cowboys were somehow unable to get a single draft pick from the Bengals for Collins... Schaffer probably didn't even legitimately try to get a trade just to screw over the Front Office. And what do you know, Collins signed with the Bengals, like everyone predicted.

30 RE: Packers

The Packers very much have a plan.  The Packers are using the same plan that they have used since Ron Wolf assumed the GM role.  From the exterior the plan make look different but fundamentally it's still the same plan.

 

Find a quality quarterback

Find a left tackle

Find playmakers on defense, namely at edge and cornerback

Have an effective player development program especially at offensive line

Balance long-term and short-term objectives

Do not invest significant resources in players age 30 or older save for qb.  Exceptions can be made for 'best in class' performers at key positions (left tackle, edge rusher, cornerback)

That's the plan.  Folks may think it' s a dumb plan.  Don't know what to tell you other than this has been the plan now since 1991.  

And it's not changing anytime soon.

33 RE: Follow up

In reply to by big10freak

And yes, I anticipate the snarky "That's every team's plan" response.  Fine.  All I know is that GB adheres to this approach with tremendous rigor.

 

So again, throw all the darts one feels necessary.  This is the GB framework

40 RE: Reid

As Reid was a coach for GB earlier in his career I can only presume he either learned it or was part of the development of the original plan.

39 I could not disagree more on…

I could not disagree more on the Dolphins.

Getting Armstead and Tyreek Hill is a huge gamble that's very likely to fail. Armstead's already 31, and Hill's 28. They'll get 2, maybe 3 years most likely out of them, and 2 out of 3 teams in their division were top-5 DVOA teams last year! At best, they'll be an annoyance, but they're not going to be contenders.

Just bizarre. I mean, if the Bengals were out there signing Armstead and trading for Hill, I'd be like "holy crap" - but the Dolphins have no idea where their team is, and they just tossed money and picks out the window.

42 I do agree

The Dolphins are nowhere near the Bills, but Mike gives them a higher grade because they were willing to send a half-dozen draft picks to KC and commit an enormous pile of money to Tyreek Hill - when WR is one of the few positions where they already have high quality!  It's such a Steinbrenner move.  

 

52 Hill makes them a lot better, IMO

In reply to by RickD

Every opponent's CB2 is now screwed. Landing a top receiver or a top cornerback is a lot like landing a #1 center in the NHL: it knocks everyone else down a peg and gives them more favorable matchups. Since each team is starting multiple receivers on every play, and many teams now take the field with three or more corners in response, it's almost impossible to be "too deep" at those positions. (Contrast with quarterback, where you either have one or you don't.) We'll see how the Dolphins handle Hill's contract once Waddle's is about to expire, but it's possible that the Dolphins have basically decided to capitalize on the value of a rookie receiver contract, however weird that might sound. I'm curious to see what they'll do if Tua isn't clearly the answer, though. And that situation will be even more intriguing if he's doing OK but clearly being propped up by the surrounding cast, like Garoppolo in San Francisco.

121 I'm curious to see what they…

I'm curious to see what they'll do if Tua isn't clearly the answer, though

That's why the Hill move in particular is such a huge gamble (Armstead just had to be done). It makes sense to move slowly when building a team because you can often not guess where a weakness might pop up and then you have the resources to plug the hole. When you rush things like this, whatever weakness might crop up will be hard to address -and if it's QB, well, then, good night.

Same thing goes for the Raiders. I can't really blame either team for trying, like Tanier says. But objectively, chances are their big WR moves won't work -not in the short term, as both teams will be better for sure, but in the long term idea of being a serious Super Bowl contender.

125 A fun "fan" theory would be…

Bridgewater actually covers QB pretty well. (it's fairly likely either him or Tua will be average at least). It does feel like they are really hedging however. (Great supporting cast  +splurge for a very good backup).  I suspect the plan is either Tua takes the leap or they become the next home for disgruntled QB when contract talks break down(Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray come to mind)

51 So DVOA actually doesn't work, Outsiders?

Yeah, I don't get the analytical hate for the Patriots. They were a top-tier DVOA team last year, with a competent rookie QB on a rookie QB contract. Myself, I think they're well-coached, but Mike either disagrees with that or figures 'like who cares about that part?'

They didn't spend near enough $$$ on free agents to get the juicy headlines, so now they're headed to sub-.500 status?

68 Part of it is the they havn…

Part of it is the they havn't made any big moves and the press loves those. Jackson you can kinda understand for cap reasons. but the Shaq Mason trade might be one of the dumbest moves of the offseason.  If they got a higher pick, you could see it , but 5th is the bag-of-handeggs of the NFL. 

Part of it is, there was never an explanation for what happened to them.  They had a decent DVOA till the bye and then their defense fell off the map and there was never a reason. (It looked like their line play just tanked, they won in the trenches, and then they didn't...but again, no reason)

So yeah, if they had not tanked the end of the year, it probably wouldn't have changed anything other than (best case), them losing to Cincy rather than LV(which keeps Pitt out, so win for football fans) or keeping the same seed and making the buffalo game a bit closer. 

 

Either way...we probaby wouldn't be wondering if they were better than the Phins. 

81 so now they're headed to sub…

so now they're headed to sub-.500 status?

Yeah, um, Mike actually said "the Patriots will still just look like a wild-card team weighed down with mid-tier free agents and fading Super Bowl heroes." Wild-card. Not sub-.500.

Wasn't exactly expecting the "I hate Mike's take on the Patriots"... because I pretty much agree with him there. The Mason and Jackson moves were a special kind of awful. But it's important to note you're talking about the free agency grades, not what you actually think of the team. To me, the Patriots were a really good team last year... that absolutely got worse in the offseason.

I hate trying to handwave away the Jackson move for salary cap reasons, too. They're cap constrained because Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, and Jonnu Smith are taking up over $43M (!!!!) in cap space. Those were dumb signings (in aggregate, Henry's signing doesn't look terrible at the moment) - but of course they didn't hurt them last year, when they had tons of space. They hurt this year. You don't get a free pass when screwing up in year N doesn't cause a problem until year N+1.

85 what did you want?

"The Mason and Jackson moves were a special kind of awful."

What did you want?  Belichick basically decided Jackson was going to get more elsewhere than he would pay.  As for Mason, most of last season I heard fans talk about how he was declining.  When people say, "Belichick should have gotten more in the trade!" I have to think "Somebody should have offered more!" There are a lot of inefficiencies in the trade market, but I imagine that Belichick does at least minimal due diligence in terms of trying to maximize return.  

If you want to bash BB for his free agent signings of last year, well, you're not alone.  But I don't think it's fair to give him a bad grade for this year because Jonnu isn't as productive as one hoped.  

I also notice that when people want to bash Belichick's spending last year, somehow Judon doesn't make it into the conversation.  

They hurt this year. You don't get a free pass when screwing up in year N doesn't cause a problem until year N+1.

Depends on the context.  I thought this commentary was about this year's moves.  

93 The Shaq Mason trade alone…

The Shaq Mason trade alone makes this a failing grade unless they pull off an equivalent fleecing to balance it out (and that just gets you to zero and isn't happening anyway)

98 So who offered more?

When you take the absolute best one of 31 offers, it's by definition not a fleecing. You can find fault in finding oneself in that position. You can argue that they should then just do nothing. But 30 other teams decided Mason wasn't worth any more than that.

102 No one knows

But I highly doubt they called ALL the other teams. Even though they shouldn't be afraid of trading him in division. 

There was no noise of him being moved beforehand so I doubt other teams offered less for a consistently good trench player. Especially consider it was a good teams 5th? Yeah, they likely could've gotten more. 

And even if it was the best that doesn't mean it cant be fleece. That just means they didn't wait long enough.

114 If they needed to trade a…

If they needed to trade a useful player to get salary cap space and only get a 5th for him, is it a win (you got something for a player you'd have to release) or a loss (you screwed up your cap the prior year with questionable signings, so you shed talent for a 5th)?

I'm really curious how people see this. Mason didn't have to be moved.

117 Yeah, Mason had a perfectly…

Yeah, Mason had a perfectly reasonable year last year and he wasn't that expensive, so I don't know why you need to move him at all. The fact that they only got a 5th for him isn't that surprising, as guards aren't rare enough (and he's not cheap enough) that there'd be a lot of interest, especially in the offseason.

The Patriots cap situation is perfectly fine, the whole "we had to do this" because of the cap is nonsense. They've got over $100M on a 2-year basis, and it's not like they need to conserve it to be the big man on campus in the free market like they did in 2020 (which worked out so well anyway). Mason and Jackson are perfectly reasonable players to keep around for a number of years.

101 What did you want? …

What did you want?  Belichick basically decided Jackson was going to get more elsewhere than he would pay. 

I wanted Belichick to realize that Jackson was worth more?

It was a 16.25M/yr contract. It's not even remotely close to the top-end all time of corner contracts. It's totally reasonable.

Y'know what 2 contracts were near the top-end all time of their positional contracts...?

I also notice that when people want to bash Belichick's spending last year, somehow Judon doesn't make it into the conversation. 

Because Judon's contract wasn't insane! It was practically a bargain. It was exactly what you'd expect when the Patriots could outspend other teams. The only way the Henry and Smith contracts made sense is if the Patriots were accidentally bidding against themselves and they didn't realize it.

Depends on the context.  I thought this commentary was about this year's moves.  

Last year's moves are still hurting this year because as far as I can tell, he's still clinging to them. Restructure Judon and Henry since they're obviously worth keeping and toss Agholor (seriously, he ain't worth the net $4.8M). God knows what you do with Smith, but whatever, you've gotta keep him. Extend Wynn to pull his number down, you obviously keep him. Toss Jones. That's easily enough to sign Jackson. Hell, tossing Agholor and Jones matches Jackson's cap number this season!

127 They finished only one game…

They finished only one game better than the Dolphins last season by record (yes, I know record doesn't mean anything when it comes to future performance and that NE was much higher in DVOA than MIA) and were swept by them. They were high-variance, as they inflated their stats in huge blowout wins, especially on defense.

56 To be clear, I didn't like…

To be clear, I didn't like these moves either and I don't think they are going to work out. However, I can understand their justification.

They have tons of cap space and a rookie controlled QB. These signings probably looked painless in that lens. I think they also wanted to position themselves to give Tua almost no excuses for being bad. In that sense, it also appears costless. If it works out and he's good, then they will be great. If he sucks, then you aren't dogged by nagging thoughts about maybe it's the roster and not him.

But again I would not have made these moves

82 It's like the anti-Bengals…

It's like the anti-Bengals method, though. You don't bring in vets to calm your fears about a rookie QB. You draft guys.

The Armstead signing isn't that bad, a $15M/yr contract for a left tackle's extremely reasonable. That part's fine, he's gonna have value regardless of whether or not Tua works out, and it's a free agent signing. But the Hill trade's just wacko. It's a total luxury pick by a team that does not have that much margin for error. It's like the combined Agholor+Henry+Smith signings by New England, made worse by the fact that it was a trade.

84 Somehow even if NE did have…

Somehow even if NE did have the cap space(and they probably could have by restructures), I doubt they would have signed Jackson. Bill seems to have an intrinsic number in his head and if you are over that, he's fine to say good luck and best wishes.

I don't agree with that view and I expect it to bite him soon considering his qb is not Tom Brady anymore. 

86 "that view"

I don't agree with that view and I expect it to bite him soon

People have literally been saying that for 20 years. And yet his Patriots are the only franchise that hasn't witnessed the usual quick decline from the top.  What has happened to the Colts, Saints, Packers, Steelers, Ravens, Broncos, and everybody else in the past twenty years?  

 

95 Well, managing a team when…

In reply to by RickD

Well, managing a team when you have a hof QB is different than when you don't.  It's impressive to keep going as long as they did but there is a limit

 

NE should have blown it up when Brady left. Imagine if they drafted Trevor Lawrence 

99 I think Belichick is a great…

In reply to by RickD

I think Belichick is a great coach, but that doesn't mean there haven't been personnel mistakes. I think such mistakes are largely irrelevant because Tom Brady has been his QB and has been healthy and able for 20 years. Now that Tom Brady is gone, suddenly those mistakes become the difference between close wins and close losses and between respectable losses and humiliating losses.

I don't really understand why any team lets go of a top corner at such a young age. People should plan cap around retaining their top young guys first and foremost. 

61 the Dolphins have no idea…

the Dolphins have no idea where their team is, and they just tossed money and picks out the window.

My personal belief is that Flores' "Pay-for-Losses" accusations stung Ross and so he overcompensated by making big "win-now" moves. If this elevates the Fins to double-digit wins and makes Tua look like a franchise QB, Ross would see it as a rebuke of Flores.

70 gambler mentality

The success of the Bucs and the Rams have emboldened those with a gambler mentality - That you gotta take risks to reap rewards, and its okay if the rewards don't come, because at least you tried. This mentality, in the NFL, was not quite as promininent prior, since free agency acquisitions usually don't get one over the hump, and going back many years success has come to those with good systems and good coaching and good drafting and good luck (achieved largely without excessive risk...). And the history of teams that went all in to trade for players with draft picks has been mostly abysmal (chief examples being the the Vikes/Walker trade and the Ditka/Williams trade). 

Has any one player EVER been worth more than two high draft picks for his franchise? More recent examples, like Mack for two 1s, Abrams, Wentz, I mean... So based on history, I would bet (were I a gambler) on buyers remorse in Miami, Denver and Cleveland, and even Las Vegas (how apropros....

77 I'm not sure the Rams regret…

In reply to by NYChem

I'm not sure the Rams regret either Ramsey or Stafford for two 1s.

I think both the Bucs and the Jets were pretty happy about the Keyshawn Johnson trade.

As far as has a player been worth two high draft picks? Absolutely. That kind of player is rarely traded, though.

80 Of the three successes, only…

Of the three successes, only one of the involved players was a QB. (Well, two -- Goff also moved as part of the Stafford trade)

They were successes because teams traded present for future to chase a title. The successes were successes because they accomplished that, and were important factors in that success.

89 I specifically said MORE…

I specifically said MORE than 2 high draft picks. Aware that some instances of 2 have worked out. Although of course 'high' is relative. One could argue that Ditka only sent 1 high draft pick for Williams. As well as every other pick. Oh man, if that happened today, for a RB...

46 RE: Bengals

Is it confirmed that Duke Tobin is making all the roster decisions?  I know he is listed as Director of Player Personnel and Mike Brown is regarded as the de facto GM.  But given all the sensible decisions of late I am wondering if the older (frankly elderly) Brown has offloaded the roster management to Tobin.  Of course, working within the Bengals defined financial parameters

54 "Of course, working within…

In reply to by big10freak

"Of course, working within the Bengals defined financial parameters"

With the way quarterback and wide receiver contracts are ballooning, I guess we'll find out how much sway Tobin really has, when it comes time to extend Burrow, Chase, and Higgins.

58 RE: Bengals investment in resources

I doubt even the notoriously penurious Mike Brown will push back on investing in a quarterback if Burrow continues on a positive career trajectory.

 

Receiver(s)?  There I think doubts are warranted.  And not just specific to the Bengals.  

62 Oh yea, even a Hugh…

Oh yea, even a Hugh Culverhouse-level cheapskate wouldn't be dumb enough to try to lowball a true franchise QB.  I meant with them having to open up the checkbook for Burrow's extension, I can imagine Mike Brown's pained expression when Higgins' agent starts negotiating an extension, with Chase looming soon after that.

120 "Oh yea, even a Hugh…

"Oh yea, even a Hugh Culverhouse-level cheapskate wouldn't be dumb enough to try to lowball a true franchise QB."

Ask Doug Williams about that.  

126 There is every reason to…

In reply to by big10freak

There is every reason to believe that Tobin is in charge (within the budget) and that Mike Brown is merely the titular head of the operation.  He seems to have, sub rosa, transferred more and more of the budgetary (and ALL non-roster decisions) to his daughter Katie Blackburn over the last several years.  It actually reminds me a lot of the 1980s when PAUL Brown was still technically in charge , but his son Mike was really running one side of the operation and his other son Pete was running the other side.  Incidentally, the Browns in general, and Mike in particular, have never hesitated to pay big for quarterbacks.  Chase also seems like a no-brainer.   Higgins will be interesting, but again, they never hesitated to pay Chad Johnson nor AJ Green.  They even dumped money on Carl Pickens  that they didn’t really want to.  Pre-free agency they played hardball with Collinsworth and almost lost him to the USFL, but even that worked out.

EDIT:  forgot to add that Tobin has been there a long time and has seemingly had many opportunities to move on if he felt that he SHOULD have more say/power (or money).

48 Detroit

The Lions look eager to enjoy another mulligan year of Dan Campbell soundbites and backdoor covers. 

 I think you're being harsh on the Lions.  Considering you could found several new religions with a roster that holy,  AND this QB class isn't considered very good,  a strategy of just building depth in FA while leaning on the draft  for significant upgrades and waiting until 2023 for the rookie QB strikes me as a much more sound/coherent plan that you credit them with.  Now if they do draft a first round QB this year,  you have my mea culpa in advance.

55 Considering you could found…

In reply to by serutan

Considering you could found several new religions with a roster that holy

And that's just Amon-Ra St. Brown.

60 Yea, I'm in general…

In reply to by serutan

Yea, I'm in general agreement.  Trying to overspend in FA to plug holes would be pointless where they're at.  Probably need 1 or 2 more draft classes to even be a fringe wildcard contender.  A boring and cheap free agency period is perfectly fine right now.

As far as in-house re-signings, Charles Harris re-signed for a pretty modest price relative to his position and production.  Josh Reynolds is a decent WR3 (also signed for peanuts).  Tracy Walker signed a reasonable deal for a starting safety, and he looks pretty good when he's not trying to compensate for his defensive teammates' blunders.  All of the other in-house free-agents were very cheap depth/special teamers that can be cut before training cap with negligible cap impact if late round draftees/UDFA's end up out-performing them.

The only moves I had a problem with was bringing back Anzalone (he stinks and doesn't help on special teams), and bringing back both backup QB's.   Why?  Why not use a day 3 pick for a developmental QB3?  If you don't find one you like, then you can always bring  back Blough or Boyle after the draft.  I seriously doubt any other team would have been desperate for their services before then.  That one was a real-head scratcher.

49 Browns comment humor

“There’s also a sense around the league that the Watson trade came down from the ownership level…”

Anthony Molina lives!  Life imitates art.

RIP, Ivan Reitman.  You already are missed.

71 Now do you see why…

Now do you see why Philadelphia hates Howie Roseman, Tanier? They nearly got away from two expensive, underperforming veterans in Cox and Barnett and instead he gives them both new contracts.

92 Can't argue the Packers grades

Mark Murphy/Brian Gutekunst braintrust really gets their jollies from trolling him, even if it hurts the team.

They really do. "Oh you won back to back MVPs? Nice nice...now do it w/o any WRs and some rookies lulz!"

Yes, yes, Davante Adams supposedly wanted to play for the Raiders, the Packers outbid them, blah blah blah, spinney-spin-spin. The Packers held Adams' rights. They're a Super Bowl contender. There was no reason to trade him two days into free agency, less than a week after Rodgers signed his latest money

But they HAD to have Rasul, Jarran and half a season of Tonyan back. You just don't understand /s

Saints stuff is 100% justified for a 14-team win with a Hall of Fame quarterback in a conference with few serious contenders

This. It truly was time to go all in until Rodgers wheels fall off. Shed and suck afterwards.

Assemble all the receiver-heavy Rodgers fanfic mock draft scenarios you like:

Been doin that the past 2 years

the Packers have guaranteed another Super Bowl second runner-up finish in 2022

Yeah that's the problem. I don't see how anything process wise makes this divisional loser any better. They're essentially betting on blind luck, mostly in the draft. They're essentially rolling back the same defense that ranked 22nd. Same for weighted too if you want to put a lot of stock into journeyman Rasul coming in halfway through.

Ranking the re-signings

  1. Rasul - not worth Davante but an under market deal at an important position. 
  2. Tonyan - the Packers aren't immune to one hit wonders but at least it's under market. Likely won't be ready in time for the start of the year but he's cheap I guess? A couple suitors apparently drove the price up. Should've brought him back before the void deadline but that'd be toooooo hard.
  3. Devondre - straight overpay for a one hit wonder at a low value. Yes, he was great last year. But like w/Tonyan, just because it's GB, doesn't mean they secretly have the sauce to stop regression. And another guy that should've been done before the void deadline. Their new cap hits + 2.6872m dead isn't ideal for a team that was so up against the cap. Completely avoidable if they were that enamored with them. They should taken that opportunity when the deadline passed to chalk them up as one hit wonders (because they were) and taken the comp picks.

Ranking the new signings 

  1. Pat Odonnell - uh I guess we won't draft a P now (who am I kidding they will anyways lol). Guaranteed money to an extremely low value position on a guy that graded as the 23rd/33 among P last year and has never been a Pro Bowl or All Pro, 8 years into the NFL. 
  2. Jarran - 71st/110 DIs last year. Grading topped out at 66.8 (2018). Likely will cancel out Lucas Patricks comp pick. Bleh. 

So yeah not seeing the improvement externally. 

On a good note, the Chefs (over)paid MVS so that should net a nice (~5th round) comp pick. Although (clearly) valuable enough to not play week 18, the team has plenty of time to find his replacement (a couple options should be available on day 3)/switch things up. Still hoping for the likes of Julio, Landry and flipping day 3 picks for the likes of Devante Parker.

100 Pretty sure the Jaguars plan…

Pretty sure the Jaguars plan is basicly "convince Trevor Lawrence they actually are a competent franchise that he should sign with long term rather than leaving as soon as possible" 

106 Bears are doing a tear-down…

Bears are doing a tear-down. They lost Mack & Hicks, two of their three best players (Quinn is the third). They lost James Daniels & Allen Robinson, two of their better players on offense. Also lost Eddie Goldman & Bilal Nichols from the D Line.

They added... no one of note. The subtractions that I didn't bother to mention are probably more influential than their additions.

Presumably the plan is to save money & get good draft picks now, add talent in the next couple drafts, splurge in free agency in a year or two, and aim to compete behind Fields in 2024 or so. With the fallback option of drafting another QB early if Fields doesn't work out. They may face a decision as soon as next year of whether to draft another QB or hold out hope for Fields.

107 Yup

Yup, the Bears are an absolute 'A' on Coherent Plan. The new GM gets to totally tear down for the first off-season with no pressure to compete whatsoever.

They also deserve an 'A' on execution, understanding that's about as difficult as a 1st Grader getting her 'A' for Good Conduct. Sell everything over 26 you can, let every vet old enough to qualify for Free Agency leave if his contract's up. Or you want to jettison it and no one will give you a 7th Rounder for it. Take every cap hit right here right now.

108 They still have Robert Quinn…

In reply to by BigRichie

They still have Robert Quinn, and they nearly signed Ogunjobi to a 3 year $40.5M deal, both of which seem like questionable execution. Though there's still time with Quinn, and a failed physical saved them from Ogunjobi.

115 And they just signed Siemian because...?

Sometimes these "plans" are just inconsistent and pointless. The Bears are stripping the team of talent and using the money on low tier players to cancel out comp picks. If yall think that's coherent....well I would like our rivarly to be somewhat entertaining at least

116 I agree with you in…

In reply to by BigRichie

I agree with you in principle if you do this before grabbing the franchise QB. Whether or not you think Fields is gonna be the guy, unless he utterly transcends his surroundings then you'll likely have another year or two where he struggles with a subpar cast. And you're sitting in the 2024 offseason trying to decide whether to give him the 5th year option without really getting the chance to evaluate him.

132 The Ravens took a good team…

The Ravens took a good team and added the best safety on the market while shoring up their biggest hole on offensive line for relatively cheap. C!  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

134 Amari Cooper's epoch was…

Amari Cooper's epoch was actually 3 1/2 years, not 2.5 (he came over mid-'18, the last Dallas playoff year before this past season). 

-Dave

138 Kirk Cousins

Late to this article, but just wanted to say I don't like the Kirk Cousins shade, and I'm personally sick of every Vikings loss (game or season) put on Kirk Cousins.  Cousins was #7 in DYAR and #8 in DVOA last year, #6 in PFF's 2022 rankings, heck he's even #16 in the Madden ratings right now...all that to say he is definitely an above average starting NFL QB.  Why then is it such an awful decision to extend him for a year?  Sure $35mil is a lot of cash, but QBs cost a lot of cash.  Cousins looks to be equal 7th highest paid QB according to over the cap's APY number (with Russ W), so you can argue he's slightly overpaid vs his rank on the QB hierarchy, but it's not egregious.  There are 15 QBs with $25mil or more APY, and 11 $30mil or more APY, so Cousins' $35mil APY is not crazy.

139 Check down Cousins

In reply to by Sifter

Limits what you can do. Theyve been with him for how long now? And you haven't learned there's life beyond the divisional round? 

Kirk is just a less succesful Jimmy G hid behind good playmakers.

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