49ers sign CB K'Waun Williams (1 year): B+ Grade
This is John Lynch's first move as the general manager of the 49ers, and it's a decent one. San Francisco fans will continue to hope that he doesn't spend countless resources on terrible receivers like the previous TV analyst who became a kielbasa-loving front-office executive.
Williams played well for the Browns in 2014 and 2015 as a nickel. He missed all of 2016 with an ankle injury, but he's healthy now. He can provide the 49ers with some much-needed depth at cornerback. It's unclear how much Williams will be earning, but it'll likely be for something close to the minimum. Thus, I'm willing to give the 49ers a solid B+ grade.
Dolphins acquire TE Julius Thomas from Jaguars for 2017 late-round pick
So, why couldn't the Dolphins and Jaguars just make one trade that involved sending Julius Thomas in exchange for Branden Albert? Why construct two separate deals? Do they love paperwork, or something?
This trade is pretty much like the other swap, as one team is acquiring an overpaid underachiever for almost no compensation. The only difference in this situation is that Julius Thomas is still young - he's 28, while Albert is 32 - so he has a better chance of panning out in his new home.
That said, it'll take some work. Thomas has good talent, but he's never been productive without Peyton Manning. He's also very injury-prone. He's never played a full season, missing seven of 32 possible games as a Jaguar. He potentially fills a big need for the Dolphins, but he could very easily flop.
I'm willing to grade the Dolphins slightly better than I did the Jaguars, as Thomas has more potential. Plus, Miami didn't surrender much and had $42.4 million in cap space to pay Thomas, so I won't be giving its front office a bad grade for this trade.
Jaguars acquire OT Branden Albert from Dolphins for conditional 2018 late-round pick
It was reported last week that the Dolphins were going to cut Branden Albert. They then rescinded that transaction once they learned that a team was interested in trading for him. Of course, that was the Jaguars, who were rumored to be willing to deal Julius Thomas for him. Thomas wasn't involved in this transaction, however, as Jacksonville surrendered a conditional late-round pick in 2018 for Albert.
The Dolphins have to be considered the winners of this trade at the moment. They were going to release Albert for nothing, yet the Jaguars were willing to give them compensation for him. A 2018 late-rounder isn't much, but at least it's something.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, is getting a left tackle, which it sorely needs. The team just cut Kelvin Beachum, who was damaged goods. The problem is that Albert is damaged goods as well. Albert hasn't played a full season since 2011, missing 13 games in the past three years. Albert struggled mightily in 2016, as he was never healthy. He could rebound next season, but he's now 32 and may never be the same as he once was.
The Jaguars now have to pay Albert's contract, as he counts $7.2 million against the cap. Jacksonville had more than $67.2 million in cap space, so that's not an issue. My problem is the Jaguars not really changing anything. They couldn't count on Beachum, and they now are in the same exact situation with Albert. The only thing that's different is that they possibly don't have a late-round pick in 2018. That's not the worst thing to surrender, and I'm not going to grade the Jaguars too harshly, but it's difficult to understand the thought process, given that the Dolphins were so willing to cut ties with the player Jacksonville just acquired.
Dolphins re-sign DE Cameron Wake (2 years, $19 million): B+ Grade
It seems like all the Dolphins have done the past two offseasons is give old defensive ends lots of money. Signing Mario Williams last spring was absolutely ridiculous, and the Dolphins have responded by handing Cameron Wake a 2-year deal worth $19 million. This move, however, unlike the Williams acquisition, actually seems like a very good decision.
Wake had an incredible 2016 campaign. He racked up 11.5 sacks, which may not sound like a crazy amount until you factor in that he was a shell of his usual self in the first month of the season because of an Achilles injury. He was great to close out the year, which bodes well for 2017. The one drawback is his age - Wake turned 35 in January - but he hasn't shown any signs of regression, and while $9.5 million per season sounds like a lot for a 35-year-old, this is a short-term contract, so Wake won't hurt Miami financially very much if he regresses.
With that in mind, I'm fine with giving this a B+ grade. It's not an amazing deal, and it could fail because of Wake's age, but it has a strong chance of panning out; Wake seems like he has one or two more strong seasons left in the tank.
Jaguars re-sign NT Abry Jones (4 years, $16 million): C Grade
If Jaguars general manager David Caldwell has proven anything, it's that he doesn't know how to assign appropriate financial value to players. This was quite apparent when he paid Chris Ivory an absurd $32 million over five years when Ivory had been benched at the end of the previous season. This is yet another financial error, though not nearly as egregious.
Abry Jones was a solid rotational player last year, playing half (or slightly less than half) of the snaps in most games. He performed well overall, but wasn't great in any regard. He was just a decent player to have on the field half the time. Furthermore, Jones has no history of producing prior to 2016, so giving him $4 million per year doesn't seem like the smartest decision.
Then again, this signing shouldn't be graded too harshly. It won't set the Jaguars back, and Jones turns just 26 in September, so he could continue to improve. I think this re-signing is worth a "C."
Seahawks sign K Blair Walsh: B Grade
No financial terms are available for this signing, but I doubt it's much, or if anything, above the league minimum. Blair Walsh was released by the Vikings last season and spent the final two months of the year on the open market. Walsh missed four extra points in nine games, so Minnesota opted to go with someone more reliable.
The Seahawks needed a kicker, as Steven Hauschka is a free agent. Walsh could prove to be a strong replacement if he mentally recovers from his playoff whiff against these very Seahawks. Walsh was once a terrific kicker; he was 35-of-38 in 2012, including 10-of-10 from 50-plus. Walsh was also excellent in 2015 before the postseason blunder; he went 34-of-39, including 6-of-8 from beyond 50. However, the missed chip-shot that would've given Minnesota the win over Seattle apparently ruined him.
There's always a chance Walsh could just be done mentally, so the Seahawks should acquire another kicker (seventh-rounder or UDFA) to have as competition. However, the upside is there for Walsh to potentially make a recovery and become one of the league's top kickers again. I think this is worth a "B" grade for that reason.
Browns re-sign LB Jamie Collins (4 years, $50M; $26M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Browns traded for Jamie Collins in the middle of the season, so they would've looked pretty foolish - more so than usual - had they let him go. Re-signing him was a priority, and they managed to get the job done a month and a half prior to free agency.
Collins is a mega talent at linebacker, but the Patriots reportedly wanted to unload him because he caused problems in the locker room. Collins didn't fare as well in Cleveland, however, because he didn't know the coverages, and because of the insane practice policies of the CBA, Collins could never get quite on track. That won't be the case in 2017, as Collins will have all offseason to familiarize himself with the Browns' schemes.
This contract is fair. If anything, it's a slight overpay, as Collins is now the fourth highest-paid linebacker in the NFL behind Von Miller, Justin Houston and Clay Matthews, but the Browns had more than $110 million in cap space to spend, so they needed to shoot higher to make sure Collins stayed.
Jets re-sign G Brian Winters (4 years, $29M; $15M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Jets had an abysmal offensive line this past season, thanks in part to Nick Mangold seldom being healthy. One of the two bright spots up front happened to be guard Brian Winters, sixth in our NFL Free Agent Guard Rankings, so it's not a surprise that New York is rewarding him with a substantial contract that includes $15 million guaranteed.
This seems like a bit too much for Winters, as he didn't play on a Pro Bowl level, or anything. However, he has great upside; he's only 26 (in July) and should continue to improve, so it could turn out that the Jets might have even underpaid him. Thus, I think this grade probably deserves a solid "B."
Update: I've heard from a reliable source that the guaranteed money on this deal is a bit less than what was originally reported. I also did some thinking about this, and given how important offensive lines are in the post-CBA NFL, re-signing Winters was almost imperative. I'll increase this to a B+ for the time being.
Seahawks re-sign DE Michael Bennett (4 years, $39M; $17.5M guaranteed): A- Grade
This seems like a win-win for both Michael Bennett and the Seahawks. Bennett will be getting a nice contract with $17.5 million guaranteed. Seattle, meanwhile, gets to lower Bennett's cap number. It'll be able to keep Bennett, who is one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. Bennett has enjoyed a terrific 2016 campaign when he's been healthy, and I can't remember the last time Bennett had a down year.
I'd probably give this grade an "A" if it weren't for Bennett's age. Bennett will turn 32 in the middle of the 2017 season, so he's likely to decline in the near future. However, that may not happen until 2018 or 2019, and it's not like the $17.5 million guaranteed over four years will serve as a big albatross on Seattle's payroll. I think an A- seems about right.
Patriots claim WR Michael Floyd: A Grade
The Cardinals waived Michael Floyd on Wednesday, so any team had a chance to put in a claim for the talented receiver. The Patriots obtained him, and they happen to be near the bottom of the waiver order, which means that no other team put in a bid for Floyd.
In a way, it almost makes sense that the Patriots obtained Floyd. They've rehabilitated troubled players before. In fact, one is on the roster right now, and he's highly productive. If you recall, LeGarrette Blount was cut by the Steelers after getting into trouble off the field. New England scooped him up, and now he's a 1,000-yard rusher for them.
It remains to be seen if the Patriots will have the same success with Floyd, but the potential is there. Floyd, a first-round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft, has major upside, but has never lived up to it. He accumulated more than 1,000 yards in 2013, but just hasn't appeared to be trying very hard for the Cardinals this year. A DUI was the final straw, prompting Arizona to waive him. However, Floyd could really work out in New England; remember, Blount was also accused for dogging it in Pittsburgh.
There's no risk involved here, and the Patriots have a proven track record of getting the most out of troubled players, so I'm giving this an "A" grade.
Browns re-sign CB Jamar Taylor (3 years, $15 million): C+ Grade
Jamar Taylor was dreadful in Miami, where he was chosen as a second-round pick, but improved his game in Cleveland. He actually has served as the Browns' best cornerback in 2016, as Joe Haden has been hampered by a lingering injury.
Is this season a fluke? It's certainly possible. Taylor could easily regress back to how poorly he played in Miami, or he could continue being solid. He's a big question mark, so I think this 3-year, $15 million contract is an overpay, but definitely not an egregious one.
49ers sign TE Vance McDonald (5 years, $35M; $16M guaranteed): KNEEL TO PROTEST LACK OF KIELBASA MILLEN Grade
Holy hell, what in the world are the 49ers doing? It seems like they get dumber each year. Their mistakes used to be limited to replacing top-five NFL coaches with men who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, but now they're overpaying average players at an unbelievable rate.
I don't get this signing at all. Have I slipped into a coma and awakened to miss Vance McDonald tearing up the league? McDonald is an OK player, but that's just it. He's logged 24 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns, which isn't horrible considering that the 49ers have some of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL on their roster. I'm fine with the 49ers re-signing McDonald, despite his issues with drops, but at this sort of deal? This report almost seems fake or just wrong, like San Francisco forgot a decimal point, or something.
The 49ers should've been able to retain McDonald at a 3-year, $9 million pact. That's very appropriate for a player of his caliber. Instead, the 49ers overpaid, as they continue to ensure that they remain the laughing stock of the NFL for a very long time.
Falcons re-sign CB Robert Alford (4 years, $38M; $21M guaranteed): D Grade
Atlanta signing Mohamed Sanu to a 5-year, $32.5 million contract this offseason was one of the worst transactions in free agency. It was by far the worst thing the Falcons had done in the spring, but this deal almost rivals that. It's not bad enough to warrant a Millen grade, but it's close.
A horrible thing teams can do is misevaluate their own talent. That's what the Falcons are doing here. Robert Alford isn't worth anything close to $38 million over four years. I'm not sure he's even worth half of that. Alford has struggled this season and was only above average the year before. There was no reason to give him this sort of contract. If the Falcons couldn't retain Aford at $20 million over four years, which might even be too much, they should've let him walk.
Patriots re-sign OT Marcus Cannon (5 years, $32.5M; $14.5M guaranteed): C Grade
Wow, this is a lot of money for Marcus Cannon. I know he has played well this year, but he resembled a human turnstile in 2015. In fact, there was talk that he would be a cap casualty this past offseason. It's amazing how much can change in less than a year.
I think the Patriots are making the classic mistake of buying high. Cannon, based on his 2015 performance, isn't worth a tenth of this amount. I don't necessarily think he'll regress back to 2015 form, but he easily could. And if he does, the Patriots will have an albatross of a contract on the books that they'll have to deal with.
I don't think this is a horrible signing, and a "C" isn't a horrible grade. This move could certainly work out if Cannon continues to play well, but I would need more than a 10-game sample size to give Cannon this much money.
Broncos re-sign S Darian Stewart (4 years, $28M; $17.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Broncos lost a couple of key members of their defense this past offseason, so it's nice that they're able to re-sign one of their remaining key players. Retaining Darian Stewart was a key move in preserving the defense's dominance.
Stewart has made some tremendous strides after being an undrafted free agent following the 2010 NFL Draft. He has improved each year and has been exceptional in 2016. Given how well he's played, it could be argued that Stewart is a bargain at just $17.5 million guaranteed for this 4-year deal. This isn't a steal, or anything, but it's a very good move that is definitely worthy of a B+ grade.
Falcons re-sign OT Ryan Schraeder (5 years, $32M; $12.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Ryan Schraeder ended up doing pretty well for himself after being an undrafted free agent following the horrendous 2013 NFL Draft. The Falcons had a big hole at right tackle prior to plugging Schraeder into that spot last year. Schraeder thrived, but was set to hit free agency after the 2016 campaign. That's no longer the case in the wake of this 5-year extension.
Schraeder is a very talented blocker, and keeping him around will ensure that Matt Ryan will continue to have solid pass protection. The overall price of this contract seems about right, and the guaranteed money ($12.5 million) could've been a bit higher without any complaints. Schraeder is just 28, so he should continue to play on a high level throughout the duration of this contract. Thus, I think this signing deserves a grade of a B+ or perhaps even an A-.
Lions acquire CB Johnthan Banks from Buccaneers for 2018 7th-round pick
It was reported that the Buccaneers had waived Johnthan Banks, but apparently the Lions called Tampa right away and requested Banks so it wouldn't have to count on him getting to them through waivers. The cost of this was a 2018 seventh-round pick.
Banks is a talented corner, as he was chosen in the second round of the horrible 2013 NFL Draft. However, he hasn't lived up to expectations whatsoever, prompting the Buccaneers to give up on him. Banks still has some potential though, and he did perform well at Mississippi State across from Darius Slay. Perhaps Slay will be able to help Banks reach his potential. If not, the Lions didn't really give up anything.
As for the Buccaneers, obtaining a 2018 seventh-round choice is whatever, but they at least got something for a player they were more than willing to cut, so that's a solid move.
Bills sign WR Percy Harvin (1 year, $1.5 million): D Grade
I did not expect Percy Harvin to sign with anyone again. After all, the Collard Kector announced his retirement just six months ago. Now, he's back, and people in Buffalo couldn't be more excited.
And by excited, I mean depressed. I don't understand this signing unless it's to troll the Seahawks, whom Buffalo will battle this week. Injuries have derailed Harvin's career, so it's unlikely that he'll be able to contribute much. Plus, he's not a good guy to have in the locker room. I know the Bills are hurting for play-makers, but this seems like a desperate, unnecessary move that could do more harm than good.
Browns acquire LB Jamie Collins from Patriots for compensatory 3rd-round pick
I ... don't ... understand ... what's ... going ... on ... here ...? When I fist saw this trade announced, I thought I was still asleep. I slapped myself in the face to wake myself up, but this turned out to be real life. Then, my mind raced. What could Jamie Collins have done that's not being reported? Did he tell people that Bill Belichick's hoodies smell? Did he make fun of Tom Brady's ridiculous haircuts? Did he delete e-mails and then lie about it? Something must be terribly wrong about Collins, right?
Then, I thought about it, and the Patriots have been on the end of sketchy trades before. Take the Logan Mankins deal, for example. New England screwed itself out of a Super Bowl last year because it dealt Mankins earlier for a terrible tight end. The Chandler Jones swap doesn't seem to be going so well either. I get that this could have contractual ramifications, but if Collins were to leave at the end of the season, the Patriots were going to receive a compensatory third-round pick anyway. Why not keep Collins when the end result is the same?
The Patriots get an easy Millen grade for now. That'll change if Collins' e-mails are leaked, or whatnot, but New England trading its best defensive player just seems like a horrible mistake. The Browns, meanwhile, get an actual NFL player, which they were in desperate need of. It's an easy A+, as they now have a pair of stud inside linebackers in Collins and Christian Kirksey. It's at least a start!
Broncos acquire TE A.J. Derby from Patriots for 5th-round pick
This is a surprising trade. A.J. Derby hasn't caught a single pass in the regular season, yet the Broncos are giving up fifth-round pick for him? What gives?
Granted, Derby missed all of 2015 with an injury and hasn't been able to pass Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on the depth chart, so there's a reason why he hasn't done anything. However, my issue with this trade is that the Patriots were so willing to give up Derby to one of their greatest rivals. Bill Belichick clearly doesn't believe that Derby is going to hurt his team in a potential playoff matchup.
I feel like the Broncos should've been able to acquire Derby with a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Derby was chosen in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, so why is he suddenly worth more despite doing nothing as a pro?
Patriots acquire LB Kyle Van Noy, 7th-round pick from Lions for 6th-round pick
This is the first trade of the day, and it isn't a very exciting one. It does have some potential for the Patriots, however.
Kyle Van Noy has not played well thus far in his 3-year career. He's been a limited player for the Lions this season, struggling in every regard. However, there are two things to consider. First, Bill Belichick frequently does well in these mid-season deals to acquire depth, so perhaps this trade will work out as well. Second, Van Noy was a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, so he definitely has potential. Perhaps Belichick will be able to get the most out of him.
Even better for the Patriots, they're not really giving anything up. They're just moving back from the sixth to the seventh round, which isn't any sort of issue. The Patriots are the clear winners of this trade because of potential, though I won't give the Lions a bad grade either because they at least got something for a player who wasn't performing well for them.
Packers acquire RB Knile Davis from Chiefs for conditional late-round pick
Knile Davis was once considered to have good potential when he was selected in the third round out of Arkansas back in the dreadful 2013 NFL Draft. He flashed a bit, but quickly found his way into Andy Reid's dog house. He eventually dropped to fourth on the depth chart.
That said, I don't mind this acquisition for the Packers, who are desperate; Eddie Lacy is out for Thursday's game, while James Starks will be sidelined for about a month. Perhaps Davis will finally be able to live up to his potential, especially considering how solid Green Bay's offensive line is, though I definitely have my doubts.
I think both teams make out well in this trade. The Packers could get a productive player, but even if they don't, they're not giving up anything. The Chiefs, meanwhile, did well to obtain something for a player they weren't even using.
Vikings sign OT Jake Long: A- Grade
I initially dismissed the Jake Long signing when it happened, but Facebook friend Nathan T. talked me into writing about it. After reading up on it, I definitely made the right call to listen to Nathan.
It's unclear how much the Vikings signed Long for, but it can't have been for much; they had around just $44,000 in cap space in the morning, and Rick Spielman said he needed a magic wand to bring in Long. The Ravens actually tried to sign Long over the summer, but he failed their physical. He passed Minnesota's, and Long told the media that he feels better than he has in the past couple of years.
The Vikings practiced Long at left tackle, which is a problem area in the wake of Matt Kalil's injury. It sounds like the Vikings could be preparing Long to start there sometime in the near future - they're on bye this week - as replacement T.J. Clemmings has been ineffective. Long has immense talent, so the upside is there. The question is: Will he stay healthy? Based on his history, probably not, but you never know, and this move could end up really panning out for Minnesota if Long can manage to stay on the field, given his immense talent.
Lions sign RB Justin Forsett: B Grade
It's been a while since I've updated this page, but the time seems right in the wake of the Justin Forsett signing. The Ravens cut Forsett exactly a week ago for the second time in less than two months. This time, Forsett has moved on, and he'll be joining the Lions.
This move isn't exciting, as Forsett is no longer the same player - he averaged 3.2 yards per carry on 31 attempts with Baltimore - but the signing makes sense. The Lions needed another pass-catching running back with Ameer Abdullah out for so long. Abdullah brings experience and receiving ability to the table, so he should be a capable backup behind Theo Riddick for the time being.
Rams re-sign DT Michael Brockers (3 years, $33M; $16M guaranteed): B+ Grade
I have a subconscious urge to grade the Rams poorly for anything they do right now, based on how horrible they were on Monday night. I feel like they could save some orphans from a building fire, and I'd mark that down as a D- before changing it.
After thinking about it, I've realized that this is a very good signing. Michael Brockers is one of the better young defensive tackles in the NFL. He's terrific in run support and is pretty decent as a pass-rusher.
In terms of the value of this deal, it's very good. Malik Jackson, another interior defensive lineman, received $90 million over six years with $42 million guaranteed. Brockers is a pretty comparable player, so I'm willing to give the Rams a B+.
Packers re-sign OT David Bakhtiari (4 years, $51.67M; $17M guaranteed): A- Grade
We now see why the Packers jettisoned Josh Sitton, as it has allowed them to pay their young left tackle handsomely. I still don't get why Green Bay didn't wait until the end of the season, as that would've allowed them to keep Sitton for one more year and then receive a compensatory pick for him, but I've already discussed that.
As for this contract, it's definitely a logical one. Bakhtiari is one of the better young left tackles in the NFL. He's just 25, so keeping him around for four years is important, as shielding Aaron Rodgers' blind side is obviously very crucial. The overall value of this deal may seem high, but Bakhtiari is receiving just $17 million in guarantees, which is about half as much as Cordy Glenn and Terron Armstead obtained from the Bills and Saints, respectively, earlier this offseason.
I gave the Glenn and Armstead signings grades in the B/B+ range, so this definitely should be higher. I think an A- makes the most sense.
Lions re-sign RB Theo Riddick (3 years, $12.75 million): C+ Grade
I flipped back between a B- and a C+ for this signing, and I think I'm going to settle on the latter. This decision-making may not seem significant to you, but I've seriously deleted and changed B- to C+ and back to B- like 20 times.
Here's the dilemma: Theo Riddick is an important piece of Detroit's offense. He caught 80 passes last year, after all. Keeping him around will undoubtedly make Matthew Stafford happy. On the flip side, however, Riddick isn't very talented. He's a middling player who just happens to be in a great opportunity. His reception total figures to drop as well, as a healthy Ameer Abdullah is now in his second year.
So, in summary, I think this is an overpay, but I do understand why the Lions would want to make sure Riddick sticks around. I think a C+ makes sense No, wait, B-. Argh, C+ it is.
Lions re-sign P Sam Martin (4 years, $13.6 million): C Grade
Despite Andy Lee's performance in the NFL opener, I still believe that punters shouldn't be worth that much money. They definitely grow on trees, as competent punters can be picked up off the street. Thus, there's no way I could grade this signing highly, as I don't think any punter is worth about $3.5 million per year.
However, I don't think this is an egregious amount either, and Sam Martin is one of the better punters in the league. He has finished fourth and ninth in net punting the past two years, so I'm willing to give this a "C."
Broncos re-sign WR Emmanuel Sanders (3 years, $33M; $27M guaranteed): B Grade
This is a lot of guaranteed money for a 2-year deal given to a wide receiver, but I don't think it's a bad contract, or anything. Emmanuel Sanders has been a highly productive player for the Broncos, helping them win the Super Bowl with six catches for 83 yards while Demaryius Thomas was swallowed up by Josh Norman.
Sanders will now be around until he's 32, so that's a great frame to roster him. It was important for Denver to retain Sanders, as he and Thomas will both be instrumental in the development of Paxton Lynch.
As I said with the Drew Brees contract right below, I can't give this an "A" or anything because Denver's not getting a great deal, and it first glance, this seems like a ton of money. I think it's a decent contract though, so a "B" seems right.
Saints extend QB Drew Brees (2 years, $44.25 million): B Grade
The Saints have been talking about giving Drew Brees a 4- or 5-year extension, which always seemed foolish to me, given that Brees will turn 38 in January. They managed to extend Brees to a contract with $44.25 million, all of which is guaranteed, but the deal will void following the 2017 campaign.
This makes a lot more sense. Brees has about one or two very good years remaining, so it's logical to keep him around until he's about to drastically decline. It's also a nice lifetime achievement gift from the Saints, as Brees was instrumental in both reviving the franchise and rebuilding the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This didn't stop fascist, racist bigots for criticizing him recently because he stated his opinion, but Brees' new deal is well deserved.
I can't give this anything in the "A" range because the Saints aren't getting a great bargain. Some may argue a B+, but I'm actually wondering if the Saints would be better off beginning anew. Their roster is in shambles, and even if Brees has the best season of his career, it's difficult to imagine New Orleans qualifying for the playoffs. With DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson eligible to declare for the draft - Kizer is now No. 1 in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft - perhaps it would best for New Orleans to hit the reset button. That would be difficult to do, however, given all Brees has done for the team and city.
Patriots acquire CB Eric Rowe from Eagles for conditional 4th-round pick
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was not a fan of what Chip Kelly did last year, apparently. He has released or traded almost every major piece Kelly acquired, and now he has parted ways with Eric Rowe, Philadelphia's 2015 second-round selection.
Roseman has made some great deals this offseason, but I wouldn't characterize this as one of them. Rowe is a young player with nice size and loads of potential. He didn't perform well as a rookie, but the upside was definitely there. Besides, if I'm the Eagles, I'm terrified that Bill Belichick will turn yet another one of my former defensive backs into a stud. It worked with Patrick Chung, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if Rowe turns into a star.
I like this move for the Patriots, as they're getting a player with upside in exchange for a reserve lineman. Josh Kline was solid in some starts last season, but struggled in training camp, losing out to rookies Joe Thuney and Ted Karras. Still, I don't think this is a horrible trade for Philadelphia, as Kline will provide some needed help up front, while the conditional fourth-round selection could come in handy for a team low on draft resources.
Update: Josh Kline is reportedly not involved in this trade, making it difficult to grade because it's unclear what the deals are, exactly. I definitely like this less for the Eagles if they can't get Kline, but perhaps they obtained something/someone else.
Bears sign G Josh Sitton (3 years, $21.75M; $10M guaranteed): A Grade
I still can't get over the Packers cutting Josh Sitton because of a simple contract dispute. He was arguably Green Bay's best lineman, and now because of a truly horrible decision, he'll be playing for one of Green Bay's rivals.
This is a fantastic signing for the Bears, who are not nearly as bad as everyone thinks they are. They were highly competitive last season despite their 6-10 record, but one of their weaknesses entering 2016 was their offensive line. That group is so much better now, as Sitton upgrades the interior, which only had one weak link.
Sitton is only 30, and because interior linemen can play well into their mid-30s, he should be able to perform on a high level throughout the duration of this contract. I think this is a fantastic signing - worse linemen have been signed for more this offseason - making this an easy "A" grade.
Ravens sign KR Devin Hester: C+ Grade
If this were Devin Hester of five years ago, this would get an obvious A+, assuming the price tag wasn't too high. Hester, of course, is the greatest return specialist of all time in terms of touchdowns scored (21).
Unfortunately, this is now 2016, and Hester is a shell of his former self. He's 33, and he's scored just two return touchdowns since 2012. I suppose it can't hurt to bring him in. Perhaps some punters and special-teams coordinators who are stuck in the past will have boot the ball out of bounds to keep it away from Hester, but I can't see him doing much once everyone figures out that he's done.
Vikings acquire QB Sam Bradford from Eagles for 2017 first-rounder, 2018 conditional pick
I had a fantasy football draft last night, and then I had some people over for cards. I ended up going to bed at 6 a.m. It's noon now, and I woke up 20 minutes ago. I looked at my phone, which was on silent, and I had texts from eight people telling me to wake the hell up and grade this trade. My apologies for being so late, but I didn't anticipate a blockbuster deal like this on a Saturday morning!
This is shocking to say the least, but it obviously makes sense. The Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season to a gruesome knee injury, and their Super Bowl hopes were dashed as a result. They have one of the top defenses in the NFL, a strong running game and some solid play-makers, but Shaun Hill wasn't going to make a deep run into the postseason.
By making this deal, the Vikings are basically saying, "We can win the Super Bowl with Bradford." And in theory, they can! Peyton Manning took a similar team to the Super Bowl last year, and statistically, Bradford was way better than Manning in 2015, and it wasn't even close. Manning was an interception machine who couldn't connect on any passes downfield. Bradford is an accurate quarterback who can play the role of game-manager quite well. He's also a nice fit for the offense, as he's worked with Pat Shurmur in both St. Louis and Philadelphia.
With Bradford on the roster, Minnesota's Super Bowl chances have increased. There's no doubt about that. In fact, for a second, I thought that this was a good trade for the Vikings. And then I remembered something...
Bradford will get injured at some point!
There's no way Bradford lasts 16 games for the Vikings. I don't care if they run the ball every down. He's going to get hurt somehow, and once that happens, the Vikings will be back where they started, only to be missing their first-round pick. I understand why the Vikings made this trade, but this deal was made out of panic, and that's never a good thing. Also, this compensation seems ridiculous. Giving up a first-rounder for Bradford alone seems like too much. They're also throwing in a 2018 choice that could be as high as a second-rounder! That's absolutely ridiculous.
I'm not going to give the Vikings a poor grade because they don't really have many options, but this can't be higher than a "C." I feel like fair compensation for Bradford would've just been a 2017 second-round selection. Had that trade been made, Minnesota would've been awarded a B+, or even an A-. But this trade is just way too lopsided.
As for the Eagles, well, how do you not grade this as an A+? This may go down as one of the greatest trades in the NFL this decade. Getting a first for Bradford is a gift itself, and Philadelphia could have an extra second-day choice in 2018 on top of that.
The Eagles, by making this trade, have announced that they are effectively punting this season, but this was seen as a transitional year anyway. They didn't have much of a chance of winning more than six or seven games, so why not continue to build for the future? The pedestrian Chase Daniel will start until Carson Wentz is healthy and ready, and the Eagles can insert Wentz into the lineup without having to worry about Bradford pouting again.
Update: I was reminded by Facebook friend Anthony A. that the Browns deserve a grade for this trade as well. Why? Because they own Philadelphia's first-round pick. The Eagles are obviously worse without Bradford in the immediate future, so Cleveland will be drafting earlier as a result. In fact, it's not out of the question that the Browns will own the top two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. You can check out my 2017 NFL Mock Draft here. Let's give the Browns an A+ as well.
Grade for Vikings - C
Grade for Eagles - A+
Grade for Browns - A+
Cowboys sign QB Mark Sanchez: D Grade
The Broncos released Mark Sanchez in the wake of Trevor Siemian winning the starting job. The Cowboys, in dire need of a veteran backup behind Dak Prescott, signed him almost instantly.
This signing is pretty irrelevant. Having a veteran like Sanchez on the roster as insurance for Prescott may sound like a nice idea, but the Cowboys won't be able to win any games if Sanchez starts. It'll be exactly like it was last year with Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. Sanchez is just as bad as them, if not worse.
With that in mind, I'm giving the Cowboys a "D." I'd rather see them go after a young quarterback with some sort of upside. I also thought Tarvaris Jackson was a better option if Dallas wanted to go to the veteran route. There's really no point in having Sanchez on the team, and it's kind of sad that Dallas had to resort to signing him.
Bears re-sign G Kyle Long (4 years, $40M; $30M guaranteed): B Grade
This may seem like a lot of money for Kyle Long, especially after a 2015 season in which he didn't play all that well. Long, however, was miscast as a tackle. He's been much better in the interior, however, and I can't exactly blame the Bears for giving him a long-term extension.
I'm not going to give the Bears an "A" or something else in that range, as they're not getting a great deal or anything. But this extension makes a lot of sense, as the Bears will have the cornerstone of their offensive line around until the end of the decade. I'm willing to give Chicago a solid "B" grade as a result, as this contract is what it should be.
Steelers acquire CB Justin Gilbert from Browns for 2018 6th-round pick
Based on the Browns' luck alone, would it surprise anyone if Justin Gilbert bounced back from his horrific stint in Cleveland to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player for Pittsburgh? This almost has to happen, right?
Gilbert has been an enormous bust, but he has tons of raw talent. I think it's definitely worth the risk to surrender a sixth-round pick for a player like that. Perhaps Gilbert, who has been a knucklehead, will see this as a wake-up call. Maybe he'll get his head on straight in a stronger locker room. Gilbert, in all seriousness, is likely to stay a bust, but there's a high level of upside with this trade.
As for the Browns, I'm not going to give them a bad grade for this deal, but I'd prefer for them not to trade within the division. If Gilbert finally lives up to his potential, Cleveland will look even more stupid than it would under normal circumstances.
Seahawks acquire S Dewey McDonald from Raiders for conditional pick
Every time I begin thinking about what to write about the Dewey McDonald trade, I can't help but remember that annoying kid brother on Malcolm in the Middle. I always thought the writers should've treated him like Judy from Family Matters and just wrote him off the show. Malcolm wouldn't quite be in the middle then, but whatever. The world would've been a better place.
As for this Dewey, McDonald is a reserve safety and special-teamer. It seems nonsensical to trade any sort of pick, even if it's a conditional seventh-rounder, for someone like that when Seattle could've obtained him or someone comparable off waivers.
The Raiders are the clear winners here, as they're fortunate to get anything for a replacement-level player who probably wouldn't have made the final 53.