ILB Daniel Ellerbe- Dolphins- C
Unlike Kruger, Ellerbe was indeed a product of a great Ravens defense. This is proven true by the fact that the Ravens offered about half of what the Dolphins paid for him. A 5 year, $35 mil is outrageous for a guy that didn’t start until Ray Lewis was hurt. This isn’t a failure because Ellerbe can be a productive middle linebacker in this league, when he reaches the height of his potential. But, don’t expect the next great linebacker, which is what the Dolphins paid for.
DT Desmond Bryant- Browns- D-
And the Browns get my first below passing grade of the year! Desmond Bryant is a thug who has no experience in a 3-4 and was never a great player for the Raiders in a 4-3. He was just your average starter statistically. Yes, he went to Harvard but was recently arrested so its not like the brains are there. And, he is young, so I guess he has time to improve. But I don’t see how throwing a 5 year, $34 mil with $15 mil guaranteed is a good idea, especially since the Browns already have 3 very good defensive lineman, all of which will probably start over Bryant (2 of which are younger than Bryant.) This makes no sense to me, but sometimes that’s what happens in the NFL (especially in Cleveland.)
OT Godser Cherlius- Colts- C+
To me, this is like putting a band aid on a broken wrist. How on earth does Godser Cherilus, a mediocre right tackle, get a 5 year, $34 mil contract? Cherilus is the classic example of a bad draft choice by Matt Millen. But, this move is not worth failing for a couple of reasons. First, the contract is only $10 mil guaranteed, so it doesn’t kill the cap. Second, Cherilus did have his best season last year, so maybe he is improving. Third, offensive tackle was a need for the colts, so maybe this is the short-term guy and the Colts are waiting it out. This is a bad deal, but its not egregious.
OT Jermon Bushrod- Bears- C
I actually feel bad for the Bears. Here they are, trying to get something done in free agency by signing a guy who was Drew Brees’ left tackle and statistically looks really good. But, look on film, and you will see the flaws. Yes, he gave up two sacks last year but he allowed more pressures than 28 offensive tackles last year. Drew Brees has a quick release, which is why he wasn’t sacked. Bushrod is an okay run blocker and is pretty mobile so this grade doesn’t deserve an F. But, for a 5 year, $36 mil deal with $17.7 guaranteed, Bushrod was definitely overpaid.
LB Phillip Wheeler- Dolphins- A-
The Dolphins want to win free agency, and they have had mixed reviews. One signing I did like was Wheeler. Wheeler isn’t a household name, but was a dynamic player for the Raiders last year (their only one.) He replaces the aging Kevin Burnett, and is a major upgrade. He is 28, versatile, and is best when stopping the run, which is something Miami could have improved on last year. For 5 year, $26 mil with $13 mil guaranteed, I think this is a pretty good deal.
LB Eric Walden- Colts- F
And the first F goes to the Colts. Walden was nearly cut by the Packers last year after a horrific end of the regular season followed by a bad playoff game against the 49ers. Walden would have to compete for backup on most teams, let alone deserve a 4 year, $17.5 mil contract with $8.6 mil guaranteed. Maybe the Colts think that he can maximize his potential on a worse defense with a worse coordinator having to play Arian Foster and Chris Johnson twice a year. Walden is actually worse than any 5th or 6th round scrug the Colts could have drafted. By the way, if a player is 27 and has been on 5 different teams, that’s probably a good reason to think he shouldn’t be given $17.5 mil.
TE Marty Bennett- Bears- B-
Bennett is one of the laziest players in the NFL, but has tremendous talent. In Dallas and New York, he had some amazing plays but was ultimately outbid by someone else who thought they could make him work harder in both situations. I don’t think Mark Trestman is more motivating than Tom Coughlin though. The contract is nice though, 4 year $20 mil for a guy with tons of upside is a good bet- just not a great one.
LB Quinton Groves- Browns- B+
Groves is a first round bust who got a chance to prove himself one last time in Arizona last year. He played well enough to earn a 2 year, $2.8 mil contract with the Browns. I don’t like that Cleveland is stockpiling mediocre players, which is ultimately what Groves has amounted to be thus far in the NFL. But, this is one of those signings that ultimately wont amount to much so its hard to give it a bad grade. It is an above average signing.
CB Greg Toler- Colts- D
Oh gosh. The Colts swing and miss again. Toler is a below average cornerback with a history of injury problems. He didn’t start for the 5-11 Cardinals last year. Why on earth would a 3 year, $15 mil contract solve that? Toler is a fine backup and can maybe step in a game or two against Jacksonville, but that’s about it. He is a scrug who got paid like he is worth something.
TE Jared Cook- Rams- B
Jared Cook has played, at best, inconsistently in his NFL career and, at worst, poorly. Cook is a name you hear more often then you should because he is athletic and can be put on the highlights. That being said, if there is one guy that can fix him, it is the guy that drafted him: Jeff Fisher. Yes, a 5 year, $35.1 mil deal with $19 mil guaranteed looks like way too much for him but here’s why I like the move. Cook is a big target, something that St. Louis doesn’t have. The defense will have to focus some attention on him so this will help ease the offense, if nothing else. And Sam Bradford is much better than Jake Locker, so that will help make this move better. Also, Cook took advantage of the media hype, so this move had a lot to do with the market as well. I may be taking a risk here, but I kind of like the move.
S Pat Chung- Eagles- A
This is the best move the Eagles have made in free agency in a long time. Chung is a low risk/high reward player who is a potential pro bowler. For New England, he was the only staple of the secondary and for a 3 year, $10 mil deal, is totally worth it. If Chung plays well, he can finally set the Eagles miserable secondary straight. If not, then he at least adds a veteran, stable and winning presence to a team with a lot of turmoil. Yes, he hasn’t been the healthiest NFL player, playing in 20 of the last 32 regular season games. But, that’s what the Eagles paid for: a guy who can play 70% of games at a high level. This is a great deal for both sides.
TE Delaine Walker- Titans- B
Walker will help with run blocking, but the Titans are a mess in the receiving game as well. Having a solid tight end for Locker is a must and Walker just doesn’t provide that for this team. He gets an A for Chris Johnson but a C for Locker, which gives this move a B overall. At 4 years, $17.5 mil with $8.6 guarenteed, the contract suffices for the talent level. If the Titans can lock down a more receiving tight end in the draft, then this deal makes sense. I’m a little nervous, though, about Walker as a starting receiving tight end for a team that needs that player.
*CB Chris Houston- Lions- C
I have never been a fan of Chris Houston. I thought he was a pedestrian corner in Atlanta and was too risky when he came to Detroit. He can get the picks, but he will also surrender touchdowns (watch the Atlanta game.) Giving him a 5 year, $25 mil contract is way overpriced, especially since they also need two more corners. I would rather just start over, since Houston has shown that he is too inconsistent to be a #1 cornerback in this league.
G Donald Thomas- Colts- A-
Phew! The Colts actually make a smart move here. The Colts spent 4 year, $14 mil on a guy who helped block Tom Brady last year, and did a pretty good job at it. He is young, athletic and fills a need. The question with him is whether he was more of a product of New England or if he is a genuine talent. This guy has the potential to be a 5-6 year fix with the Colts and, if nothing else, adds a veteran presence with relatively little cost.
FB Jerome Felton- Vikings- A
Great deal for a great player- 3 years, $7.5 mil for a pro bowl fullback. Makes sense.
DT Jason Jones- Lions- C+
Jones is a situational pass rusher and not much more. Detroit has a good defensive line but, in a 4-3, you can never have enough young pass rushers. A 3 year, $9.5 mil contract would be good if he was a starter, but I think is a little high for a guy who will only be in a few plays per game. If he produces 8 sacks next year, then it is worth it. But, more likely, he will produce 4-5 which is why this grade is a little below average. Just an example, he played the same role last year in Seattle, where he had only 3 sacks last year and 10 total tackles.
G Louis Vasquez- Broncos- A
What a great deal! The Broncos get the best player on San Diego last year (mind you division rival) who was also a borderline pro bowl player last year. Vasquez wont get the hype that other players will but he is certainly worth more because of his great size and mobility combination. He single handedly upgrades the Broncos from an average to a good offensive line. What’s more he signed a 4 year, $23.5 mil contract with only $13 mil guaranteed. And, he’s only 25! This may be the best deal in free agency so far.
WR Donnie Avery- Chiefs- C
Avery is explosive but is also unreliable. A 3 year, $11 mil deal is a lot to ask of a guy who will probably be the 3rd wide out on the team. Sure, he fits into the Chiefs offense, but his reoccurring injuries along with his multitude of drops means this is a risky move for the Chiefs.
RB Rashard Mendenhall- Cardinals- A-
People give Mendenhall a hard time, but the truth is that it is not his fault. He played in only 6 games last year and, although only 25, plays like he is 31 because of his bad knees. That said, he has also rushed for 1,000 yards twice in his career so he is not totally worthless. As of now, he is best as a 5-10 carries a game back, which is how Arizona will use him. For a 1 year, $2.5 mil deal, I think Mendenhall is worth it. He wont put up big stats, maybe ever again, but he can be a very solid player in his role. And if he sucks, then cutting him would barely touch the cap.
FS Dashon Goldson- Buccaneers- B
This all depends on what the Bucs do with Ronde Barber. Goldson is a top 5 NFL safety and goes to a team that just spent a high first round pick on a safety. Sometimes, I think the Buccaneers have no idea what to do with their money. Cornerback was clearly a much bigger need for them. Back to Barber, though. Barber played well last year, but is 38! Goldson would help the back half of this secondary tremendously although he is not much of an upgrade over last year’s version of Barber. But, I think the Bucs understand that Barber will start declining and had to pounce on Goldson. And, I also understand that Goldson will make a corner’s job easier. But, the contract is pricy: 5 year, $41.35 mil with $22 mil guaranteed. This is a risky move and ultimately will end up pretty average for them. I think Goldson will protect against deep passes, but can’t do it all.
RB Reggie Bush- Lions- B
Reggie Bush is the most talked about player for someone who can produce so little. I mean, he is god for like 5 games, and then either injured or pedestrian for the rest of the year. He was used effectively as a scat back for the Saints, then was good for one season as the feature back in Miami. And then inconsistent play and injuries caught up to him and he rode most of last year on the bench. Bush, now 28, hopefully realizes he must return back to the scat back he was as a Saint. And the 4 year, $16 mil contract looks like that. But, I am still concerned about his reliability especially with only 2-3 more years of potential productivity. I could see Bush spending more time on the side line then on the field, and when on the field, not being as good as expected.