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NFL Free Agency 2016: AFC Team Grades

The first flush of Free Agency is over, lots of money has been spent. But has it been spent wisely? We look at how well teams have done in t


The first flush of Free Agency is over, lots of money has been spent. But has it been spent wisely? We look at how well teams have done in the early stages as we grade the AFC teams. View our AFC Grades here Baltimore Ravens Out: G Kelechi Osemele, QB Matt Schaub In: LS Morgan Cox, LB Shareece Wright, TE Benjamin Watson GM Ozzie Newsome has never overpaid a Free Agent in his life and he wasn’t about to start this year, letting Kelechi Osemele walk when teams started offering him Tackle money. Newsome obviously sees him as a Guard and, as such, wasn’t willing to pay the premium afforded to Tackles. Having got limited production last year as rookie TE Maxx Williams struggled with injuries and acclimating to the pro game, signing TE Ben Watson is a solid, if unspectacular piece of business. Grade B Buffalo Bills Out: OLB Nigel Bradham, CB Ron Brooks, DT Stefan Charles, CB Leodis McKelvin, DE Mario Williams In: T Cordy Glenn, G Richie Incognito The Bills recognised that a big driver of their offensive success last year was stability on the Offensive Line so worked hard to keep that intact this year, franchise tagging Cordy Glenn and re-signing G Richie Incognito. The Bills were a bit hampered by being tight to the cap but offloading Leodis McKelvin and Mario Williams provided some relief and, in the case of Williams especially, could prove addition by subtraction. Cincinnati Bengals Out: WR Marvin Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Marvin Jones In: SS George Iloka, CB Adam Jones, LB Vincent Rey Cincinnati went into Free Agency with 2 clear goals – re-sign SS George Iloka and WR Marvin Jones. They achieved 1 out of 2 as Jones was signed away by the Detroit Lions. Cincinnati was one of the most talented teams in the NFL last year and look to be the same next year as the pieces they lost were complementary more than key. Grade B + Cleveland Browns Out: C Alex Mack, T Mitchell Schwartz, WR Travis Benjamin, S Tashaun Gipson In: ILB Tank Carder Despite an abundance of cap room, possibly the least talented team in the league managed to get even less talented! How can you allow that to happen, particularly with a new HC good luck Hue Grade: F Denver Broncos Out: DE Malik Jackson, QB Brock Osweiler, LB Danny Trevathan In: T Donald Stephenson, QB Mark Sanchez Super Bowl winners are always coveted and this year was no exception as teams came after the Broncos players and Denver, conscious of the cap room they will need to find to sign Von Miller to a long term deal, were unable to hold on. The biggest surprise is the departure of QB Brock Osweiler who joined the Texans after GM John Elway stuck to his valuation and was outbid by Houston. One of the most talented Defenses in the league was also weakened with DE Malik Jackson and under-rated LB Danny Trevathan also moving on. Denver have brought in QB Mark Sanchez via trade with the Philadelphia Eagles but will surely be looking for more competition at that spot. Grade C Houston Texans Out: G Brandon Brooks, C Ben Jones In: G Jeff Allen, C Tony Bergstrom, RB Lamar Miller, QB Brock Osweiler, T Chris Clark, Charles James, DB, P Shane Lechler, K Nick Novak, DB Eddie Pleasant Houston have been busy! Armed with cap space and a clear desire to upgrade on offense, GM Rick Smith’s phone was red hot early in free agency as he looked to upgrade the Texans offense. Upgrade he did as well, signing our Top Rated players at both QB and Running Back, and immediate replacements for lost players on the OL. Houston also stayed young, signing players on the upside of their careers and avoiding the trap of paying for past production. Grade A Indianapolis Colts Out: TE Coby Fleener, FS Dwight Lowery In: TE Dwayne Allen, K Adam Vinatieri The Colts knew they would only be able to keep one of their free agent TE and opted for the more rounded Dwayne Allen over the inconsistent, and below average blocker, Coby Fleener. If Allen can stay healthy this will prove to be the prudent move. Adam Vinatieri is seemingly ageless and the Colts will be glad to have his reliability back in the fold. Grade B Jacksonville Jaguars Out: None In: DE Malik Jackson, RB Chris Ivory, FS Tashaun Gipson, TE Marcedes Lewis, P Brad Nortman With over $80 million dollars in available cap room Jacksonville were always going to make a splash, and they did, giving DE Malik Jackson $85 million dollars over 6yrs. They also brought in talented FS Tashaun Gipson, a rangy safety with an eye for the ball, and thumping RB Chris Ivory, who will share carries with TJ Yeldon. They did, however, miss out on a few players they wanted, notably DE Olivier Vernon who opted to sign with the New York Giants. The Jags needed to get better – a lot – on defense and did so, especially when you consider they also get high draft pick DE Dante Fowler back after he missed the whole of his rookie season. Jacksonville will expect to figure in the AFC South race this season. Grade B+ Kansas City Chiefs Out: G Jeff Allen, DB Tyvon Branch, QB Chase Daniel, CB Sean Smith, T Donald Stephenson In: G Mitchell Schwartz, OLB Tamba Hali, DE Jaye Howard, LB Derrick Johnson, OLB Frank Zombo KC had a lot of Free Agents this year and worked had to re-sign as many as they could meaning they were fairly inactive in the wider free agent market, only bringing in T Mitchell Schwartz from Cleveland. Tackle was a position of need however, as they were unable to re-sign Donald Stevenson who signed with division rival Broncos. They also lost CB Sean Smith within the division when he signed with the Raiders, the double whammy of weakening your team and strengthening a rival. They also lose marks for being docked draft picks for tampering. Grade C Miami Dolphins Out: WR Rishard Matthews, RB Lamar Miller, DE Derrick Shelby, DE Olivier Vernon In: S Isa Abdul-Quddus, T Jermon Bushrod, DE Mario Williams, C Sam Young,  LB James-Michael Johnson, G Jacques McClendon Miami clearly wanted to keep DE Olivier Vernon but became aware early on that the price was going to be too steep for them so wisely removed the Transition Tag, ensuring they will receive a compensatory draft selection next year. As a replacement they brought in Mario Williams from Buffalo and, it could be argued that they got better because of it. The Williams signing will make or break this Free Agency for them because if he can re-find his double digit sack for of pre-2015 he will be a bargain at just $20.5m over 2 yrs. Miami also worked really hard to keep RB Lamar Miller but the prospect of the feature back role in Houston was too much for him to pass up. Grade B New England Patriots Out: SS Tavon Wilson In: OLB Ramon Humber, WR Chris Hogan Typically understated Free Agent period for the Patriots, who have been largely inactive despite what many would perceive to be glaring weaknesses in their roster. They need to address an OL that nearly got Tom Brady killed last year but seem content to not jump in early. WR Chris Hogan is not a big name but he is someone the Patriots have admired for a while and should be a great scheme fit as he is known for his mental game. New England also have other free agents that they may still bring back such as LeGarrette Blount but as usual they are willing to wait out the market and bring them back a bargain basement prices. Grade C+ New York Jets The Jets are so far sticking to their guns at the QB position, refusing to raise their offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Options at the position are limited though – reports are that Robert Griffin III is to visit the Meadowland but it would be a surprise if Jets brass see him as the solution. New York’s focus in Free Agency so far has been the RB position brought in long-time Bear, Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson from the Saints, as well as re-signing Bilal Powell to replace the Jaguars bound Chris Ivory. They also lost a big piece on defense as Damon Harrison moved to the blue half of New York. Ultimately, what happens with the QB position will determine the success or failure of the Free Agency period for Gang Green. Grade B – Oakland Raiders Out: C Tony Bergstrom In: G/T Kelechi Osemele, OLB Bruce Irvin, CB Sean Smith Oakland are fast becoming a model for turning around a moribund, low-talent squad, as they slowly turn themselves into contenders. They picked up another few key pieces this year and look to have taken another step forward towards relevancy in the AFC once again. Regardless of whether they use him at Guard or Tackle Kelechi Osemele is a big talent upgrade on the offensive line, particularly in the running game while OLB Bruce Irvin will form a fearsome pash rushing tandem with All Pro Khalil Mack. With the other teams in the AFC West seemingly losing talent, Oakland will fancy their chances at winning the division for the first time in a long time in 2016 Grade A- Pittsburgh Steelers Out: TE Heath Miller (rtd) In: G Ramon Foster, CB William Gay, SS Robert Golden, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey Another team who are traditionally quiet in Free Agency have again been true to form this year. The Steelers have only dipped into the market to sign Ladarius Green from San Diego to replace the retiring Heath Miller. Green is an ascending player who played well in relief of Antonio Gates last year and should prove a reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger. Grade B San Diego Chargers Out: TE Ladarius Green, DE Kendall Reyes, S Eric Weddle In: WR Travis Benjamin, FS Dwight Lowery, DT Brandon Mebane, TE Antonio Gates, T Joe Barksdale Travis Benjamin was able to be reasonably productive with a cast of misfits throwing him the ball and Chargers fans will hope he can blossom now he has perennial Pro Bowler Phillip Rivers targeting him. Dwight Lowery is a poor replacement for Eric Weddle and losing Ladarius Green will hurt, especially as Antonio Gates is showing signs of slowing down. Brandon Mebane will prove a stout signing in the middle of the defense though. Grade C+ Tennessee Titans Out: FS Michael Griffen In: RB DeMarco Murray, QB Matt Cassel, C Ben Jones, WR Rishard Matthews, RB Antonio Andrews Tennessee seriously lacks talent so it was a little bit of a surprise that they weren’t more active in Free Agency as they try to rebuild their roster under new GM Jon Robinson. Matt Cassel is going to add little more than leadership in the classroom at this stage in his career and Rishard Matthews isn’t the game breaker that Marcus Mariota requires. C Ben Jones will be a solid player and FS Michael Griffen will not be too sorely missed. There are still a lot of moves that need to be made to transform the Titans into a contender but they will be hoping DeMarco Murray can re-capture some of his 2014 form. Grade C+

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NFL Free Agency 2016: AFC Team Grades

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