Thursday, April 9, 2015

4 comments Bleacher Report Provides the Official Grades for How NFL Teams Did in Free Agency

I probably use the word "overrated" a lot to the point my use of the word is a bit overrated. I think NFL free agency is really overrated though. I mean this and am not using hyperbole. Maybe NFL free agency as a whole isn't overrated, but the teams that make the biggest splashes with the biggest signings aren't usually teams that end up winning the Super Bowl that next season. Free agency seems to be an inefficient market where players are being paid for past performance and one bidder can drive the player's price up sky high. Smart teams spend smartly in free agency. Spending smartly means choosing players who fill in some holes on the current roster prior to the draft, while using the draft to fill in the rest of the holes on the roster. I still think the draft is the best way to build a successful team in the long-term. Spending big in free agency and rewarding teams with high grades who spend big in free agency is a fool's errand in my opinion. So here some grades from the NFL free agency period. They are purely subjective and seem to be pretty pointless.

Now we'll explore how the teams have done in free agency and assign them each a grade of either pass or fail. We came to this conclusion for a variety of reasons—none more important than if the team is better than it was at the end of the 2014 season.

And of course it makes total sense to judge a team on whether they are better after free agency than they were at the end of the 2014 season, especially since the NFL Draft hasn't even happened yet. Improving is an offseason-long process, not something that just happens after free agency is over.

We also included factors such as quality of players signed, if their own important free agents stayed and how many good players defected.

And this is all subjective of course. The author decides which players are "good" that defected and which free agents for a team were "important." Mostly though, the author uses personnel moves the team made outside of free agency as the basis for his grade in this slideshow where the supposed intent is to hand out grades based on only free agency.

Let's start the slideshow!

Arizona Cardinals: PASS

General manager Steve Keim was able to restructure the contract of star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and the 31-year-old pass-catcher should now complete his Hall of Fame career in the desert. Keeping Fitzgerald in the fold was a wise move; while he's not the player he once was, he's still capable of getting the job done.

I really don't think this should be a part of the grade. Fitzgerald wasn't a free agent and his contract was restructured. Bleacher Report makes their own rules though.

They did lose longtime defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (released and signed with San Francisco), his battery-mate Dan Williams and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, but the club should be able to overcome those losses.

How can they overcome these losses when the author didn't list a single DT or CB signed by the Cardinals? Who cares? The Cardinals shall overcome these losses with great force of will.

Right now, the Cardinals offseason gets a slight pass. But if they can acquire a game-changing running back in either the draft (Todd Gurley?) or via trade (Adrian Peterson?), it will skyrocket to an unreserved pass.

So if the Cardinals draft a running back or trade for one then their grade on how well they did in free agency will get much higher? So teams can get a higher grade for their free agency moves by making moves outside of free agency? This doesn't really make sense.

Atlanta Falcons: PASS 

In that search, the club imported a number of free agents to Hotlanta: pass-rushing linebacker Brooks Reed, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and tight end Jacob Tamme among them. Tamme should provide quarterback Matt Ryan with a reliable target over the middle,

He's 30 and had 14 catches on 28 targets for 109 yards last year. He's never been very good when Peyton Manning isn't throwing him the ball. Maybe my definition of "reliable" is different from the author's definition.

while Reed and Clayborn will be counted on to provide much-needed pass-rushing oomph.

Clayborn had 1 tackle last year in one game and has 13 sacks over a four year career. Brooks Reed has 14.5 sacks on his four year career and has 3 sacks last season. They may work out, but apparently signing pass rushers, no matter how good they are gets a passing grade.

Dimitroff also re-signed running back Antone Smith, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball,

7 career touchdowns in five years. Maybe he should touch the ball more.

The Falcons most notably lost receiver Harry Douglas and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but those aren't earth-shattering defections.

The author gives credit to the Cardinals for signing Weatherspoon, but doesn't seem concerned the Falcons lost Weatherspoon to the Cardinals. Sure, consistency be damned.

Baltimore Ravens: FAIL

The Baltimore Ravens' 2014 season ended in heartbreaking fashion at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots—and it doesn't currently appear that the team is better than it was on that fateful Saturday in January.

If only there were a way for the Ravens to improve their team by choosing players who played college football last year through an organized selection process. It could be called "the draft." But alas, there is no such thing so the Ravens haven't improved their team and probably never will improve the team prior to the season starting.

Buffalo Bills: PASS

And Ryan hasn't disappointed in his first few months on the job, as the Bills made a gigantic splash, trading linebacker Kiko Alonso for Eagles running back LeSean McCoy in a true stunner. McCoy is a nice fit in Ryan's ground-and-pound offensive philosophy, and it can be reasoned that Ryan's defense can operate at a high level of efficiency without Alonso.

McCoy was acquired in a trade and not through free agency, dumbass. So on a list of grades for NFL teams the McCoy acquisition wouldn't count because he wasn't acquired through free agency.

And although the club overpaid for tight end Charles Clay (five years, $38 million with $24.5 million guaranteed), he should instantly improve the passing attack. Mercurial wide receiver Percy Harvin also came in on a one-year, low-risk deal.

Sure, the author thinks the Bills overpaid, but that's how you win Super Bowls. Overpay for players through free agency. It's a proven way to win, just ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Carolina Panthers: FAIL 

Despite winning back-to-back NFC South championships, the Carolina Panthers have a number of roster holes to fill—and they definitely haven't filled them just yet.

If only there were an NFL Draft! Why hasn't this happened yet? Teams need a way to fill needs on their roster after free agency is over. Where are college football players expected to go after their eligibility runs out? To Canada to play football?

but trying to improve the team's pass protection by signing tackle Michael Oher isn't going to do the trick. Bringing back wide receiver and kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. is nice, but it isn't going to move the meter.

I didn't know the grade was partly on "moving the meter," as opposed to how upgrading from one of the worst left tackles in the NFL and improving the 31st ranked special teams would improve a team's grade.

Meanwhile, longtime running back DeAngelo Williams was released and signed with Pittsburgh,

He was the third-string back at the end of the year.

While it's hard to criticize Gettleman for letting go of Hardy—who was limited to one game last season due to charges stemming from a domestic violence case—Hardy is definitely a major talent who can get after the opposing quarterback.

And yet, the Panthers somehow managed to have a good pass rush without Greg Hardy last year. But sure, the fact Hardy wasn't on the team in 2014 should be factored into how the team is now worse without him on the team in 2015.

Chicago Bears: FAIL

The Chicago Bears have a new coach (John Fox) and general manager (Ryan Pace)—but unfortunately for them, the quarterback (Jay Cutler) remains the same, so it's hard to issue them a passing grade.

So because the Bears didn't trade Jay Cutler, a move that would have nothing to do with free agency, then it's hard to give them a good grade for their free agent moves? This makes not of sense.

Cutler is the albatross slung around the franchise's neck, with his bloated contract and atrocious body language weighing down the entire operation. It's hard to criticize Fox and Pace for being unable to jettison Cutler from the roster, but finding a way to do so would have been a significant boon.

So the author finds it hard to criticize the Bears for not trading Cutler, but he'll give them a failing grade for not doing so. Sure, makes sense in Crazy Land.

The Bears might be in good hands for the future, but the team earns a failing grade thus far.

What? Ryan Pace can only be judged so far on the job he has done in free agency. The author thinks the Bears are in good hands because Ryan Pace is the Bears' GM, yet he thinks the only thing Pace has done since becoming GM was a failure. So why does the author think the Bears are in good hands again?

Cleveland Browns: FAIL

While coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer can't be blamed for the yearlong suspension of receiver Josh Gordon and the rehab stint of quarterback Johnny Manziel, those events still hurt the club and must be taken into account in the overall grade.

NO, NO, NO. No, Johnny Manziel entering rehab should NOT be taken into account when giving the Browns a grade for how well they did in free agency. Manziel entering rehab has nothing to do with the Browns and their performance in free agency. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. This cheap ass slideshow is supposed to be about grades for a team's performance in free agency, which has nothing to do with the drafting of Johnny Manziel or the suspension of Josh Gordon.

The Browns are surely a worse team now than at the start of the free-agent period.

Every NFL team can't fix all the holes they have on the roster through free agency. That's why there is an NFL Draft. Why must the author be so dumb and expect teams to fix all their holes in free agency?

Dallas Cowboys: FAIL

Owner Jerry Jones brought back Bryant with the franchise tag, which was the right move—of the two (Bryant and Murray), Bryant is the more valuable player. But there can be no denying that Jones and the Cowboys made a Texas-sized bungle allowing Murray to sign with the rival Eagles.

Nope, there can be no denying that handing DeMarco Murray the amount of money he wanted in free agency could have been a Texas-sized bungle. Running backs are being devalued and a running back like Murray who has been healthy for two seasons since he left high school isn't necessarily the smartest investment.

Murray's defection leaves a major hole in Dallas' run game, as there's no way the pu pu platter of Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar can replace him. While it's possible Jones will make a splashy play in the draft (Melvin Gordon?) or via trade (Adrian Peterson?), that position—once one of strength—looms as a disaster.

A "pu pu platter"? Thanks, Bill Simmons.

Notice how the Cardinals haven't taken care of their running game, but that's perfectly fine with the author. Who cares? Meanwhile, the Cowboys have (on paper) a weak running game and this of course is a disaster waiting to happen. Weird how that works.

Denver Broncos: PASS

Regardless of whichever players the Denver Broncos signed or lost in free agency, the whole rigmarole must be considered a success. And that's for one reason and one reason only: Quarterback Peyton Manning is returning to the team for a fourth season in the Mile High City.


The Broncos brought in tight end Owen Daniels to rejoin new head coach Gary Kubiak, but they lost tight end Julius Thomas, guard Orlando Franklin, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and safety Rahim Moore. Those are talented players to lose, but general manager John Elway has assembled a talented roster that can overcome those defections.

Oh that's great to know. I didn't know that Owen Daniels was a Pro Bowl tight end. I guess he is.

And, as we've already stated, it all starts and ends with Manning. Since he's back, the Broncos earn a passing grade.

The Broncos get a passing grade in free agency based entirely on a move that was made, that wasn't even a move the team really made, which had nothing to do with free agency. Typical Bleacher Report.

Detroit Lions: FAIL

He says the Lions failed mainly because they didn't sign Ndamukong Suh and let Nick Fairley go. Fairley underachieved and the Lions dodged a huge bullet by not keeping Suh's contract on the books and allowing him to sign a bloated contract the Dolphins will eventually come to regret. I LOVE Ndamukong Suh, but the Lions won free agency by not re-signing him or letting his cap figure take over their salary cap.

Houston Texans: PASS

Coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith needed an upgrade at the quarterback position, and they got just that when the signed Brian Hoyer away from Cleveland.

Browns fans snicker a little bit.

Bringing back cornerback Kareem Jackson was a wise move, and notable imports include safety Rahim Moore, wide receiver Cecil Shorts and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the latter of whom brings a championship pedigree to H-Town.

Much like the championship pedigree that Ed Reed brought to the Texans until he was cut prior to concluding his first season with the team?

Kansas City Chiefs: PASS

So the Chiefs do deserve credit for bringing in speedy wideout Jeremy Maclin from Philadelphia—even though they overpaid (five years, $55 million) for him.

And really, what's the point of signing a guy in free agency if you aren't going to overpay for him? There's no fun in making a big splash if there can't be a little financial irresponsibility that goes along with it.

While receiver Dwayne Bowe and center Rodney Hudson are now ex-Chiefs, the signing of Maclin is enough to give Kansas City a passing grade.

The Chiefs got a passing grade because simply because they overpaid for a wide receiver (and the Jaguars also got a "Pass" grade for signing Julius Thomas). It's almost like the author favors making a big splash over a team not spending salary cap space on players who could help the team but also aren't smart financial signings.

Miami Dolphins: PASS

Any time you can sign one of the best three free agents in the history of the NFL, you earn a passing grade. The Miami Dolphins did just that. 

Okay, you are going to have to calm the fuck down. Suh is a great player and the top free agent available but the Dolphins paid him like a franchise quarterback. It's great that Suh is a wanted free agent, but the Dolphins will regret his contract and you can write that down with a chisel in stone. Suh will produce for the Dolphins, but his contract will continue to give the team problems.

Along with Reggie White (1993) and Peyton Manning (2012), Ndamukong Suh completed the holy trinity of free agents, and his decision to go to Miami could have a major impact on the AFC playoff picture.

Peter King wants to know where Nnamdi Asomugha fits into that trinity.

New Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum has done a great job cleaning up mistakes from deposed general manager Jeff Ireland, headlined by his trade of underachieving (and overpaid) receiver Mike Wallace (along with a seventh-round pick) for a fifth-round pick in this year's draft.

He cleaned up Ireland's mistakes by overpaying for another free agent. Brilliant move. It is the equivalent of cleaning a toilet using asbestos as the cleaning agent. Boy, it sure looks clean until you realize a few years later you just caused a whole new set of problems for yourself.

Trading for Saints receiver Kenny Stills was an underrated move that should pay immediate dividends.

That was a trade and not free agency. Stop judging NFL teams on moves they made that weren't moves made in free agency. If this slideshow is supposed to be about how teams did in free agency, then stick to moves these teams made in free agency.

Minnesota Vikings: PASS

But until the uncertainty surrounding running back Adrian Peterson's status is resolved, it's difficult to assign a definite pass or fail to the Vikings.

Adrian Peterson is currently a player on the Vikings roster. He is not a free agent. Whether he is going to be traded, he'll retire, or assume a new identify and try to enter the draft as Adam Patterson, his status has zero to do with what the Vikings' grade should be for their free agent moves. Stop judging NFL teams' free agent moves based upon moves they made that weren't made in free agency.

New Orleans Saints: FAIL

While re-signing running back Mark Ingram and bringing in cornerback Brandon Browner and speedy back C.J. Spiller all qualify as positive moves, the Saints remain in a world of financial hurt, and losing Graham makes this an easy call for a failing grade.

Jimmy Graham was traded. TRADED to the Seahawks. This isn't a move in free agency and shouldn't have anything to do with the grade. Here is what the author stated his grade would be based upon:

Now we'll explore how the teams have done in free agency and assign them each a grade of either pass or fail. We came to this conclusion for a variety of reasons—none more important than if the team is better than it was at the end of the 2014 season.

We also included factors such as quality of players signed, if their own important free agents stayed and how many good players defected.

Do you see anywhere in there where it says, "We will also include any personnel moves these teams have made since the end of the season"? No? Because it's not there and all of the language has to do with the grade being based upon the moves these teams made in free agency. Yet, here we are again...Jimmy Graham was traded so the Saints get a failing grade in free agency.

New York Giants: PASS

While general manager Jerry Reese overpaid for special teams ace Dwayne Harris, he should upgrade the return game. Defensive end George Selvie, linebackers J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas will also help.

I like how the author doesn't give a shit if a team overpays for a player in free agency, just as long as that team acquired the player. Because free agency isn't about making smart decisions to help your team in the short-term and not handicap the team in the long-term. Not at all. Free agency is about spending however much money that team needs to spend in order to improve themselves on paper. Who cares if a team overpays for a free agent? It's about making a splash and getting a good grade for that. Fiscal responsibility isn't cool and can only result in a lower grade.

New York Jets: PASS

Although they shelled out massive money to bring cornerback Darrelle Revis back to Broadway, it was the right decision. Revis is still an elite player and should be one for the majority of his five-year deal. It was an excellent signing by new general manager Mike Maccagnan.

Maccagnan also signed two other cornerbacks, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, morphing a position of weakness into one of strength. Also brought in were guard James Carpenter and safety Marcus Gilchrist.

Thanks to these signings, the Jets earn a big-time passing grade for the free-agency period.

The Jets spent a lot of money on players and this obviously gives them a good grade. Here is a fun game. Think about the big free agent signings over the last few years and how they turned out. This writer gave every team who signed a big name/expensive free agent a passing grade. Yet when looking back on big signings in free agency from a few years back, those teams wouldn't get a passing grade. It's almost like the author values a splash signing more than he values smart free agent signings. That's the typical reaction of fan-boy, amateur bullshit writing, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Oakland Raiders: PASS

Beleaguered general manager Reggie McKenzie made a series of great signings, including linebacker Curtis Lofton,

Who, as Saints fans will attest, isn't very good at playing football.

former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (linebacker).

He's also more recently a former backup linebacker, which of course the author fails to mention.

And running back Trent Richardson represents a low-risk, high-reward transaction (seriously).

Seriously, regardless of the risk, Trent Richardson is awful. The tape don't lie.

Philadelphia Eagles: PASS

At this point, it seems every team is passing. Everything is awesome! Every NFL team improved itself in free agency! How realistic.

Kelly's trade for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (dealing a second-round pick in 2016 and quarterback Nick Foles to get him) was questionable, but the rest of Kelly's moves were brilliant. Running back LeSean McCoy didn't have a great season last year, and Kelly was able to get a quality young linebacker, Kiko Alonso, for him.

Repeat after me. This was a trade and had nothing to do with free agency. Consistently the author is mixing free agency with other personnel moves outside of free agency.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has become the most interesting man in sports. He doesn't always talk to the media, but when he does, everyone stops what they're doing and listens.

And that's a credit to the incredibly interesting Kelly, who doesn't care what you or anyone else thinks.

I actually agree with the author about the Eagles' moves, but not because Kelly is interesting. It seems the author is confusing a coach being interesting with this meaning the moves he made in free agency (and of course, outside of free agency) are smart.

Pittsburgh Steelers: PASS

So give general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin credit for re-signing Roethlisberger to a massive contract extension that will allow him to retire a Steeler.

(Bangs head against the table that a current Steelers player being given a contract extension is being included as part of a grade on how the Steelers did in free agency)

The signing of running back DeAngelo Williams should help, as the depth last year (once LeGarrette Blount was cut and re-emerged in New England) behind starter Le'Veon Bell wasn't great. Williams might not be the player he once was, but he's still capable of moving the chains and getting the job done.

As of the time the author wrote this, this was the only move the Steelers had made in free agency. So while the author knocks other teams for not filling all the roster holes they had, the Steelers sign a backup running back while losing three starters (Worilds, Keisel, Taylor) and they get a passing grade. I guess they have no more roster holes to fill.

Bringing in Williams was a brilliant move by Colbert, and inking Roethlisberger to an extension was smart. That earns the Steelers a passing grade.

I wouldn't call signing Williams as "brilliant." I saw him play for his entire career and he's definitely playing with a fork in his back at this point. The Roethlisberger extension was not a free agent signing. I will repeat this until I die, which may be soon.
Seattle Seahawks: PASS

The only move that ultimately matters in their pursuit of a second Lombardi Trophy was the trade to bring in All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham from New Orleans.

There's no point in typing it at this point.

Gone are cornerback Byron Maxwell, guard James Carpenter and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Smith, but general John Schneider has assembled a roster with great depth that can overcome those losses. 

The acquisition of Graham easily earns Seattle a passing grade.

I love how when the author wants to give a team as passing grade, and yet that team has lost some players in free agency without replacing them, so he just writes, "GM X has assembled a roster with great depth that can overcome those losses" without going into specifics. Yeah fuck it, they'll be fine. Who cares how, because that trade for Jimmy Graham gives the Seahawks a high grade in free agency. So everything should be fine after that.

St. Louis Rams: PASS

Like every other team, the Rams pass because they made a move which gave them headlines. Also, like much of this list, the trade for Foles is the biggest reason the Rams did well in free agency which apparently is now shorthand for "every move the team has made in the offseason."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: FAIL

Last offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went on a free-agent spending spree, notably signing quarterback Josh McCown, defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins.

As of now, none of those three players are still on the roster. So we're going to retroactively award a failing grade for both last year's free-agency period and this one. You're welcome, Tampa Bay.

And yet, without any sense of self-awarenss or the slightest bit of irony, the author has awarded every team that made big, expensive moves during 2015 free agency a sparkling "Pass" grade. It's weird how the author knows these big free agency moves didn't work out for the Buccaneers last year, but he doesn't think to realize perhaps these "Pass" grades based on big moves might end up looking silly a year from now. Big free agent moves don't always work out, yet the teams who make these moves get an exciting "Pass" grade in free agency from the author.

It's hilarious to me the author is all like, "HAHA! Look at those stupid Buccaneers who made high-profile and expensive moves to improve the team last year in free agency. Let's all point and laugh at them for thinking if they throw money at players then the team will succeed. THE JOKE'S ON YOU ASSHOLE!" Then he proceeds to give every team that made high-profile and expensive moves a passing grade for this offseason. It's grand. 

Washington Redskins: PASS 

And McCloughan has already made a positive impact on the roster, making a number of under-the-radar signings in free agency that make both football and financial sense. What a novel concept!

But did he fill all of the personnel holes the Redskins team had? Because that's the standard upon which free agency is judged apparently. The Redskins failed if they didn't address every single need the team had in free agency. We've learned this truth throughout the slideshow.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo and running back Roy Helu headline the list of players that signed elsewhere, but Orakpo had underachieved and Helu is expendable.

Ah screw 'em, who needs these guys anyway? Brian Orakpo underachieved and Roy Helu is just a guy. Of course the author did give the Titans and Raiders "Pass" grades for signing these two players, so I have to wonder why it was smart for the Redskins to not re-sign Orakpo because he underachieved, but the Titans made a smart move by signing him? That seems odd. If Helu is expendable, then why would part of the Raiders' "Pass" grade be based partly upon them signing him?

Overall, the Redskins got better, and that earns them a passing grade.

Yeah, but what happened to filling all the holes on the team because free agency is the last chance to do that? Isn't that how the author judged NFL teams earlier in this exercise of free agency grading futility? The Ravens failed due to not filling all the holes the team had.

I should expect nothing else from a grading system that uses personnel moves a team made outside of free agency as the basis for a grade on how that team did in free agency. 


Chris said...

I know it's very fashionable to bash Cutler but I don't quite understand the writer's criticism of his "atrocious body language". If you are going to criticize anything about Cutler shouldn't it be his game? I mean I had heard that Brady credited his Super Bowl victories to his excellent body language but I thought that was a bunch of crap. I stand corrected.

JBsptfn said...

I like how you mentioned Bill Simmons. This guy may have him as an idol. If he does, I really feel sorry for him, especially if he makes the lamest of moves and mentions Bill Simmons Road in one of his writings.

Bengoodfella said...

Chris, you must have a lot to learn about body language. It's like Cam Newton with the towel on his head. When he wore the towel on his head, it meant he was detached and not a team leader, which is why Carolina couldn't win football games. Now he still wears the towel on his head, but Carolina is making the playoffs so he is showing great leadership. See, the towel was the problem until it wasn't anymore.

In the same vein, Cutler's bad language causes him to not play well. As soon as Cutler plays well again his bad body language will just be seen as part of who he is. Wait, I think you may actually have it right.

JB, I forgot about Bill Simmons Road. It did seem like this guy reads Simmons a lot and nicks his writing style.

Snarf said...

From packers:

"The team did lose inside linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Tramon Williams, and both of those positions loom as ones of need in the upcoming draft. But Thompson has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt in terms of his player evaluation, so the Packers are in good hands."

How is this not true of the ravens as well? Also Ngata was a trade, not sure how that's FA. Especially since the return is picks and, as you mentioned, this thing called the draft hasn't happened yet.