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NFL Free Agency 2016: NFC 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 NFC teams. View our AFC Grades here Arizona Cardinals Out:  T Bobby Massie, LB Sean Weatherspoon In: DB Tyvon Branch, QB Drew Stanton Re-signing Stanton is a key move for Bruce Arians team as they retain stability at the QB position behind Carson Palmer. With Tyrann Mathieu recovering from a 2nd ACL tear and with the way Arizona uses their DB’s Branch will provide excellent depth at a strong position. Arizona could still do with some help in the trenches this offseason though. Grade B Atlanta Falcons Out:  C Gino Gradkowski In: C Alex Mack, WR Mohamed Sanu, QB Matt Schaub, DE Derrick Shelby, DE Adrian Clayborn, LB Sean Weatherspoon Solid, without being splashy, work from the Falcons. They massively upgraded the Center position with the signing of Alex Mack without dramatically overpaying. They also upgraded the WR position with Sanu, who will be a solid contributor opposite Julio Jones – the deal is made better by the fact they didn’t  fall into the trap of paying WR1 money to a second WR as many have done in Free Agency in the past. What keeps this grade from being a solid A is that they needed to do better than Derrick Shelby in upgrading their pass rush. Grade A – Grade B Carolina Panthers Out:P Brad Nortman In: C Gino Gradkowski, WR Stephen Hill, DE Charles Johnson, FB Mike Tolbert, QB Joe Webb Successful seasons often mean difficulty in keeping hold of free agents due to interest from other teams and the Panthers have managed to avoid that eventuality this year. However, that may be a reflection of the perceived lack of talent on the team, something that was evident in their Super Bowl loss. Fans of the team would have been hoping for more activity to surround Cam Newton with more talent. Grade C+ Chicago Bears Out: T Jermon Bushrod, RB Matt Forte In: T Bobby Massie, ILB Danny Trevathan, CB Tracy Porter, RB Jacquizz Rodgers Bears brass is clearly enamoured with the performance of RB Jeremy Langford, letting long time franchise icon Matt Forte depart for the New York Jets. There has been a focus in recent years for the Bears of getting younger and they followed that formula this year signing rising players Danny Trevathan, a key performer for the Super Bowl winning Broncos and Bobby Massie who was a solid contributor in Arizona. Grade B+ Dallas Cowboys Out: QB Matt Cassel In: DE Cedric Thornton, MLB Rolando McClain Any time Cowboys staff are able to convince Jerry Jones to sit tight and not exercise his itchy trigger finger is a win for fans of ‘America’s Team’. The Cowboys roster is already above averagely talented and the club has done a good job recently of changing their focus to building through the draft. Re-signing MLB Rolando McClain is a solid move as he has been a key contributor to their defensive improvement in the last couple of years. Now that Johnny Manziel is on the market though – how long can Jerry Jones sit still? Grade B Detroit Lions Out: S Isa Abdul-Quddus In: DT Stefan Charles, WR Marvin Jones, S Tavon Wilson, DT Haloti Ngata, DT Tyrunn Walker, OLB Tahir Whitehead Quietly efficient is perhaps how we can best describe the start for the new regime in Detroit. They solidified a strength of the team by re-signing DTs Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker and will also be glad to have kept hold of promising OLB Tamir Whitehead who tested the market before returning. Marvin Jones is a good complementary piece but if they have signed him to be a No1 receiver now that Calvin Johnson has retired they will likely find he doesn’t quite measure up (but then, who would?) Grade B – Green Bay Packers Out: None In: LB Nick Perry Colour me unsurprised at the complete and utter lack of activity coming out of Lambeau, with the only signing to date, in or out, being the re-signing of OLB Nick Perry. As per usual, Green Bay will be looking to build through the draft and extend players they want to keep prior to free agency starting. Grade Incomplete Los Angeles Rams Out: CB Janoris Jenkins, FS Rodney McLeod In: OLB Mark Barron, DE William Hayes, Wr Brian Quick No big Hollywood signings to help energise the new fan base in Los Angeles for the Rams, as Les Snead has opted just to re-sign some solid contributors and not to overpay for stars. Losing Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod from the backfield will hurt and create more needs come draft time for a team that already has too many. Grade C Minnesota Vikings Out: WR Mike Wallace In: G Alex Boone, FS Michael Griffen, OLB Emmanuel Lamur, MLB Audie Cole, DT Kenrick Ellis, G Michael Harris, SS Andrew Sendejo To date, none of the Viking FA’s has signed with another team, a sign that they have the talented elements of their roster under contract. They have also added some talent to the mix as well with G Alex Boone, formerly of the 49ers a Pro Bowl level talent who was arguably San Francisco’s best lineman at this stage of his career and someone they would have wanted to keep. Minnesota have been relatively  quiet in the market – probably wary of making another expensive mistake like the signing of Mike Wallace previously. Grade B – New Orleans Saints Out: TE Benjamin Watson, OLB Ramon Huber, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Marques Colston, CB Brandon Browner In: TE Coby Fleener, QB Luke McCown The Saints are very hampered in Free Agency this year by their salary cap position, leaving them little room to manoeuvre. They did manage a couple of moves though, solidifying the all-important back-up QB position with the dependable Luke McCown. They also got younger and more athletic at the TE position (if a little less reliable) by signing Coby Fleener to replace Ben Watson at the position. They didn’t, however, do anything to address their woeful defense, a huge need for them. Grade C+ New York Giants Out: CB Prince Amukamara In: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, CB Janoris Jenkins, ILB Keenan Robinson Wow, just wow! New York Giants GM Jerry Reese changed the habit of a lifetime, breaking the bank in Free Agency and creating headlines across the NFL world by making huge moves to improve the Giants woeful defense. Did they overpay – you bet they did. Will they be better – they better be if people are going to keep their jobs! There are concerns though, not so much about the moves they made as those they didn’t. Namely, not strongly addressing what was one of the worst LB units in football, bringing in just little regarded Keenan Robinson from Washington. Time will tell if the high priced Defensive Line will be able to cover for the lack of talent behind. Giants fans can’t say they didn’t try to upgrade their talent level this year though. Grade B Philadelphia Eagles Out: CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso, RB DeMarco Murray, QB Mark Sanchez, DE Cedric Thornton, QB Thad Lewis In: QB Chase Daniel, CB Leodis McKelvin, G Brandon Brooks, FS Rodney McLeod, CB Ron Brooks, OLB Nigel Brabham Chip who? You will have to look long and hard at the Eagles roster to find any evidence of their previous head coach as Philadelphia seemingly held a fire sale early in free agency. It is largely good business for the Eagles from a financial standpoint if not a talent one as they unloaded a lot of bloated contracts and gave more manageable ones to serviceable, mostly rising, players. The steal of the bunch could well be underrated former Rams Safety Rodney McLeod who upgrades an area of need on the Philadelphia back end. Grade B+ San Francisco 49ers Out: G Alex Boone In: QB Thad Lewis, DT Ian Williams The big move is yet to come in San Francisco as everyone awaits a decision on the future of QB Colin Kaepernick. The impact that will have on the roster though is fairly small as few in the organisation still believe the former Nevada passer is the future at the QB position. Of bigger concern is the loss of G Alex Boone, a standout player on the OL. They did manage to retain an under-rated player on their defense though, re-signing DT Ian Williams to a 5 yr contract. Grade B Seattle Seahawks Out: LB Bruce Irvin, DT Brandon Mebane, G JR Sweezy In: WR Jermaine Kearse, CB Jeremy Lane, Dt Athyba Rubin In what may be a legacy of finally having to pay QB Russell Wilson market value the Seahawks were unable to keep coveted pieces from hitting the market, losing talented players they would ideally have liked to re-sign, especially DT Brandon Mebane. They did however manage to keep a couple of key pieces who fit their system really well, CB Jeremy Lane in particular. It was a quiet period for Seattle fans, which they will be grateful for as the talent level on the team was, and is, pretty high. Grade B+ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Out: G Logan Mankins (rtd) In: G JR Sweezy, CB Brent Grimes, RB Doug Martin, SS Keith Tandy Tampa Bay appear to be doing free agency right, focusing on retaining their own and then picking up value pieces once the craziness dies down. Re-signing RB Doug Martin is a big boon as he has developed a good relationship with franchise QB Jameis Winston. JR Sweezy is a solid replacement for the retired Logan Mankins and Brent Grimes, despite his age, is a quality upgrade to a below par unit. What keeps this grade from being an A is the need to sign further defensive talent. Grade B+ Washington Redskins Out: QB Robert Griffin III, LB Keenan Robinson In: QB Kirk Cousins, QB Colt McCoy, DE Cedric Golston, ILB Mason Foster Is Dan Snyder still the owner? Just checking because Free Agency has been very un-Washington like this season – to their credit. A lot of their key work was done prior to the start of the league year with Kirk Cousins signing his franchise tag and Robert Griffin shown the door. Grade B+

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NFL Free Agency 2016: NFC Team Grades

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