NFL winners and losers: Grading each team in free agency so far (sorry, Texans)


Maybe, a little more than one week after the NFL’s free agency frenzy started, you’re thrilled with your favorite team and can’t wait to buy a jersey of its new star ... once he figures out which number to wear.

Or, maybe you are still trying to figure out what the heck your team is doing.

NFL free agency goes fast. Technically free agency has been open less than a week, but we know where most of the key players have landed. There are still some blue-chip players who can change a team’s offseason in a hurry — for example the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes is still going, slower than anticipated — but we know enough now to take a snapshot of each team’s moves to this point and give a grade.

We’re including trades, so avert your eyes Houston Texans fans.

Tom Brady will be playing for his second NFL team in 2020. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Tom Brady will be playing for his second NFL team in 2020. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

The offseason grades will change when we see the entire picture, and we’ll handle those in the team previews over the summer, so don’t freak out if your team is graded too low as we look at what each team has done so far in our free agency winners and losers (all contract numbers are from Spotrac):

The biggest loser

Houston Texans

Key additions: RB David Johnson (trade), WR Randall Cobb, S Eric Murray
Key losses: WR DeAndre Hopkins (traded), DT D.J. Reader
Notable re-signings/tags: K Ka’imi Fairbairn, CB Bradley Roby

The Texans took on the bloated contract of Johnson, who hasn’t recaptured his magic from 2016, and somehow surrendered perhaps the best receiver in the NFL to do it. They also overpaid Cobb (three years, $27 million) when it would have made much more sense to just re-do Hopkins’ contract. Cobb has 1,864 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three seasons combined; Hopkins averaged 1,372 yards and 10 touchdowns the past three seasons. Losing Reader in free agency is bad, too. This grade is easy after the Texans made one of the most confusing, one-sided trades in modern American pro sports history.

Grade: F

A bad start to offseason

Los Angeles Rams

Key additions: DT A’Shawn Robinson, OLB Leonard Floyd
Key losses: OLB/DE Dante Fowler Jr., LB Cory Littleton, DT Michael Brockers, RB Todd Gurley III (released), CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (released), OLB Clay Matthews (released), S Eric Weddle (retired)
Notable re-signings/tags: OT Andrew Whitworth

Remember when we were excited about the Rams’ big moves? The bill came due. They lost a lot and while Robinson and Floyd help stop the bleeding, they’re both downgrades. And this is when the Rams start to feel the effects of trading away all those draft picks too. Rough offseason. And if the Rams trade Brandin Cooks, their grade might move to Texans territory.

Grade: D-

Jacksonville Jaguars

Key additions: LB Joe Schobert, DE Rodney Gunter, CB Darqueze Dennard
Key losses: QB Nick Foles (trade), CB A.J. Bouye (trade), DE Calais Campbell (trade)
Notable re-signings/tags: DE Yannick Ngakoue (franchise tag)

The Jaguars are a mess. Their three trades brought back two fourth-round NFL draft picks and a fifth, which is fine but not going to change much. Ngakoue isn’t happy with the tag and could be traded too. Schobert is a fine player, but a five-year, $53.75 million deal seems excessive. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Grade: D-

Detroit Lions

Key additions: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, LB Jamie Collins, DT Danny Shelton, QB Chase Daniel, S Duron Harmon (trade)
Key losses: CB Darius Slay (trade), G/C Graham Glasgow, LB Devon Kennard, OT Rick Wagner
Notable re-signings/tags: None

If you’ve ever played for the Patriots, give the Lions a call. They’ll have a home for you. Harmon, Collins and Shelton can attest to that. Slay was traded for a third- and fifth-round NFL draft pick, which doesn’t seem like a great return (and Slay ripped Matt Patricia on the way out, as many ex-Lions do). Vaitai seems like a massive overpay (five years, $45 million) for a player who had four starts the past two seasons with the Eagles. It seems Detroit would’ve been better off just paying versatile lineman Graham Glasgow. I don’t know what the Lions are doing.

Grade: D-

Minnesota Vikings

Key additions: DT Michael Pierce
Key losses: WR Stefon Diggs (trade), CB Xavier Rhodes (released), DE Everson Griffen, CB Trae Waynes, DT Linval Joseph, DE Steven Weatherly
Notable re-signings/tags: S Anthony Harris (franchise tag), K Dan Bailey

We knew there would be some changes. The Vikings were in a bad salary-cap situation. The Diggs trade will pay off because the Vikings got a good return from the Bills, but it’s still at the cost of one of the team’s stars. It’s a lot to lose without getting much back, even if the cap cuts were expected.

Grade: D-

A step back, or at least not forward, for these teams

Carolina Panthers

Key additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Steven Weatherly, WR Robby Anderson
Key losses: LB Luke Kuechly (retired), QB Cam Newton (released), CB James Bradberry, OLB Mario Addison, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Vernon Butler, S Eric Reid (released), TE Greg Olsen (released)
Notable re-signings/tags: S Tre Boston

Most of this grade depends on how you view Bridgewater. While the price tag wasn’t egregious for a starting quarterback, Bridgewater looks more like a game manager than someone who can carry a team on his shoulders. And the rest of the Panthers’ early offseason was bad.

UPDATE: Anderson is a good player but the fit is odd. D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Ian Thomas are good young players but will see their opportunity diminished. Anderson’s strength is on deep routes, which isn’t Bridgewater’s best attribute. The reported two-year, $20 million deal is fine when it comes to price, but I’m not sure why the Panthers were the team to pay it.

Grade: D

Chicago Bears

Key additions: DE Robert Quinn, TE Jimmy Graham, QB Nick Foles (trade)
Key losses: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, OLB Leonard Floyd, S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, QB Chase Daniel, WR Taylor Gabriel (released), CB Prince Amukamara (released)
Notable re-signings/tags: LB Danny Trevathan

Quinn could be a good addition, but he also had four mediocre seasons before posting 11.5 sacks for the Cowboys last season. The Bears paid him $70 million over five seasons. There’s a lot of risk in that signing. Adding Graham was strange. He’s nowhere near the player he once was. The Foles trade was necessary because Mitchell Trubisky failed, but the inconsistent Foles isn’t sure to be the answer. This is what an offseason looks like when you have a general manager — Ryan Pace in the Bears’ case — who is trying to save his job.

Grade: D

Dallas Cowboys

Key additions: DT Gerald McCoy, S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
Key losses: CB Byron Jones, DE Robert Quinn, WR Randall Cobb, S Jeff Heath, DT Maliek Collins, TE Jason Witten, C Travis Frederick (retirement)
Notable re-signings/tags: WR Amari Cooper, QB Dak Prescott (franchise tag), TE Blake Jarwin

There wasn’t much the Cowboys could do. Once they tagged Prescott and re-signed Cooper, that was the majority of their offseason. Jones and Quinn might have been overpaid, but those are two important starters removed from the defense. They lost a lot of talent in the first few days of the offseason. And then the loss of elite center Frederick was a crushing blow.

Grade: D

New England Patriots

Key additions: DT Beau Allen, S Adrian Phillips, QB Brian Hoyer
Key losses: QB Tom Brady, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Jamie Collins, DT Danny Shelton, K Stephen Gostkowski (released)
Notable re-signings/tags: S Devin McCourty, G Joe Thuney (franchise tag)

The Patriots’ moves always end up better than they look in March. But they’re going from Tom Brady’s six Super Bowls to ... Jarrett Stidham and his four career passing attempts? Is it really Brian Hoyer? Maybe there’s a move coming that will clear it all up or Stidham will be an instant star. This is more uncertainty than the Patriots have faced in decades.

Grade: D

Green Bay Packers

Key additions: LB Christian Kirksey, OT Rick Wagner
Key losses: LB Blake Martinez, OT Bryan Bulaga, TE Jimmy Graham, OLB Kyler Fackrell
Notable re-signings/tags: None

Amari Cooper? Austin Hooper? Robby Anderson? Emmanuel Sanders? A trade for DeAndre Hopkins or Stefon Diggs? No, no, no (they really couldn’t pay Anderson more than the Panthers did?), no, no and no (though the Vikings were never going to send Diggs to their rival). The Packers need help in the passing game and haven’t gotten any to this point. Kirksey replaces Martinez and that’s only a worthwhile move if Kirksey is healthy. Wagner is a downgrade from Bulaga. Hard to see how the Packers are better now than they were at the end of the season.

Grade: D

New York Jets

Key additions: OT George Fant, C Connor McGovern, CB Pierre Desir
Key losses: CB Trumaine Johnson (released), WR Robby Anderson
Notable re-signings/tags: None

UPDATE: We’re moving the Jets down from a C+ do a D for not doing more to keep Robby Anderson. They can’t afford to take weapons away from Sam Darnold.

The offensive line market was very thin, but paying Fant $10 million per season is less than ideal. Still, Fant and McGovern should help the line.

Grade: D

Kansas City Chiefs

Key additions: None
Key losses: CB Kendall Fuller, DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Notable re-signings/tags: DE Chris Jones (franchise tag)

Hello? Is this thing on? Chiefs fans aren’t thrilled with the lack of activity, but K.C. is aware of the Patrick Mahomes extension that’s coming soon. Jones’ tag ate up a lot of salary-cap room too. The Chiefs could be active in the second wave of free agency and find some bargains, but nothing great yet.

Grade: D

Pittsburgh Steelers

Key additions: TE Eric Ebron, FB Derek Watt, OL Stefen Wisniewski
Key losses: DT Javon Hargrave, G Ramon Foster (retired)
Notable re-signings/tags: LB Bud Dupree (franchise tag)

Ebron is a middle-of-the-road starter. Getting Wisniewski cheap was a smart move after Foster retired. Losing Hargrave after he had a fine season is a big blow. Dupree was the big move, and the Steelers need him to continue to ascend. It’s hard to get too excited.

Grade: D

Some good, some bad, mostly average

San Francisco 49ers

Key additions: None
Key losses: DL DeForest Buckner, WR Emmanuel Sanders
Notable re-signings/tags: DL Arik Armstead, S Jimmie Ward

It’s curious why the 49ers overpaid Armstead and traded Buckner, who is the better player of the two. But getting a first-round pick from the Colts certainly helps. Losing Sanders is a blow but an expected one. The 49ers didn’t have any room to make a big move, especially after re-signing Armstead.

Grade: C-

Seattle Seahawks

Key additions: OT Brandon Shell, TE Greg Olsen, CB Quinton Dunbar (trade)
Key losses: OT George Fant, DT Quinton Jefferson
Notable re-signings/tags: DT Jarran Reed

If they can get Jadeveon Clowney back, the grade goes up. Re-signing Reed was key. This grade should be incomplete because there hasn’t been much activity. Presumably that’s because they’re hopeful Clowney returns after not getting the enormous contract he wanted on the open market.

Grade: C

New York Giants

Key additions: CB James Bradberry, LB Blake Martinez, OLB Kyler Fackrell
Key losses: LB Alec Ogletree (released), QB Eli Manning (retired)
Notable re-signings/tags: DE Leonard Williams (franchise tag)

Bradberry got $14.5 million per season and that’s a lot for a good-not-great cornerback, but the Giants needed help there. Paying more than $10 million per season for Martinez doesn’t seem like the best use of resources. The Williams tag was necessary after a midseason trade with the Jets, and Williams is going to use his leverage to get a big deal. Overall there’s not much to love or hate about this class.

Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons

Key additions: DE Dante Fowler Jr., RB Todd Gurley III, TE Hayden Hurst (trade)
Key losses: TE Austin Hooper, RB Devonta Freeman (released), CB Desmond Trufant, DE Vic Beasley, LB De’Vondre Campbell
Notable re-signings/tags: None

The Falcons were actually quite interesting. Fowler is an upgrade over Beasley and Gurley is an upgrade over Freeman, especially with Gurley getting a no-risk, one-year, $6 million deal. The Falcons paid a heavy price (a second- and fifth-round draft pick, with a fourth coming back from Baltimore) to get Hurst to replace Hooper, and losing Trufant and Campbell hurts.

Grade: C

Washington Redskins

Key additions: CB Kendall Fuller, S Sean Davis, OLB Thomas Davis
Key losses: G Ereck Flowers, QB Case Keenum, CB Josh Norman (released), TE Vernon Davis (retirement), CB Quinton Dunbar (traded)
Notable re-signings/tags: G Brandon Scherff (franchise tag)

It’s funny that Fuller is back. He was a big part of the Alex Smith trade. The main move other than Fuller was tagging Scherff. Flowers actually had a solid season at guard, but Washington was probably wise to not overpay him (and former Falcon Wes Schweitzer was added to replace Flowers). The Redskins had cap space to do a lot more, but considering this should be a long rebuild maybe it’s best they didn’t get too crazy in free agency

Grade: C+

Los Angeles Chargers

Key additions: G Trai Turner (trade), OT Bryan Bulaga, DT Linval Joseph, CB Chris Harris
Key losses: QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, OT Russell Okung (traded), FB Derek Watt, OLB Thomas Davis, LB Jatavis Brown, S Adrian Phillips
Notable re-signings/tags: RB Austin Ekeler, TE Hunter Henry (franchise tag)

Mostly, the Chargers have had a nice offseason. They retained Ekeler and Henry. The offensive line should be better with the Turner-Bulaga combination. Joseph and Harris are proven vets who should have something left. But is the quarterback plan Tyrod Taylor and that’s it? The Chargers can’t be assured of drafting one of the top quarterback prospects and they insist there’s no veteran move coming. Cam Newton or even Jameis Winston might make sense. For now the Chargers’ offseason seems to be loading up for a big run ... without the most important position being addressed.

Grade: C+

Something to get excited about

Tennessee Titans

Key additions: DE Vic Beasley
Key losses: OT Jack Conklin, QB Marcus Mariota
Notable re-signings/tags: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry (franchise tag), OL Dennis Kelly

The Titans wanted to try again with their core that made the AFC championship game, and maneuvering to sign Tannehill and tag Henry was crucial to meet that goal. Tannehill might be a flash in the pan, but the Titans had to gamble that 2019 is his new level. We’ll see. Losing Conklin hurts, especially since the Titans miscalculated when they declined his fifth-year option.

Grade: B-

Cincinnati Bengals

Key additions: DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes
Key losses: OT Cordy Glenn (released)
Notable re-signings/tags: WR A.J. Green (franchise tag)

The Bengals’ top two deals were worth $95 million. When is the last time the Bengals spent like that? Reader is a stout tackle in the middle. Waynes seems like a bit of an overpay at $42 million over three years, but he’ll help. The biggest move the Bengals will make this offseason will be the top pick in the draft, presumably LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. And the resolution of Green’s contract situation is big too.

Grade: B

New Orleans Saints

Key additions: S Malcolm Jenkins, WR Emmanuel Sanders
Key losses: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Eli Apple
Notable re-signings/tags: QB Drew Brees, G Andrus Peat, DT David Onyemata

Once the Brees question was answered, the Saints could go about loading up again for another run at a Super Bowl. Jenkins and Sanders are in their 30s but should have plenty of short-term value for a team that thinks it can win it all. Signing two aging vets wouldn’t be the right move for all teams, but it’s great for the Saints.

Grade: B

Philadelphia Eagles

Key additions: CB Darius Slay (trade), DT Javon Hargrave, LB Jatavis Brown
Key losses: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, S Malcolm Jenkins (released), RB Jordan Howard, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, WR Nelson Agholor, OT Jason Peters
Notable re-signings/tags: S Rodney McLeod

Slay and Hargrave are good defensive starters. The Eagles lost some key pieces but Vaitai got overpaid, Jenkins and Peters are aging, Howard is replaceable and Agholor was frustrating. Getting Slay on the “Matt Patricia alienated him with insults and is selling him for quarters on the dollar” discount was a great move.

Grade: B

Denver Broncos

Key additions: G/C Graham Glasgow, RB Melvin Gordon, CB A.J. Bouye (trade), DT Jurrell Casey (trade)
Key losses: C Connor McGovern, CB Chris Harris, QB Joe Flacco (released)
Notable re-signings/tags: S Justin Simmons (franchise tag)

Getting Casey for a seventh-round pick is a steal. Even if he doesn’t work out, will Denver miss that pick? Bouye is a reasonable replacement for Harris. Glasgow helps the offensive line. Gordon seems a bit redundant with Phillip Lindsay around, but Gordon is a good back. The Broncos finished last season on a high note, have a good young offensive core and got better in free agency.

Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts

Key additions: DL DeForest Buckner (trade), QB Philip Rivers
Key losses: TE Eric Ebron, CB Pierre Desir
Notable re-signings/tags: OT Anthony Castonzo

The Buckner move was costly, in terms of trading a first-round pick and the four-year, $84 million contract, but he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. The Colts paid for a blue-chip player, and it’s hard to argue too much with that. Rivers showed signs of slipping last season, but in 2018 he was fantastic. And if Rivers has hit the wall, it’s just a one-year deal. Retaining Castonzo, who considered retirement, was important. If Rivers plays like he did in 2018, this is an easy “A” grade.

Grade: B

Baltimore Ravens

Key additions: DE Calais Campbell (trade), DT Michael Brockers
Key losses: DT Michael Pierce, S Tony Jefferson (released), G Marshal Yanda (retired)
Notable re-signings/tags: OLB Matt Judon (franchise tag), CB Jimmy Smith.

The Ravens could still re-sign some of their own free agents like LB Patrick Onwuasor or OLB Pernell McPhee, which would make a strong offseason even better. Bringing back Smith is a good move. Adding Campbell and Brockers gives the Ravens a scary defensive line. Campbell is fantastic on and off the field and it was surprising it took only a fifth-round pick to get him. Tagging Judon was surprising, and the Ravens have to make sure he’s happy. Losing Yanda is tough, especially with the Ravens’ run-heavy offense.

Grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key additions: QB Tom Brady
Key losses: QB Jameis Winston, DE Carl Nassib
Notable re-signings/tags: DE Shaquil Barrett (franchise tag), DE Jason Pierre-Paul

There was no bigger move this offseason than Brady, of course. There will be endless think-pieces before opening day about Brady’s fit in Bruce Arians’ offense, and there are good arguments on both sides. Brady is better on intermediate routes than he gets credit for and he has much better receivers in Tampa. Oh, and he has the greatest résumé of any player in NFL history. He will also be 43 when the season begins, and only one quarterback has thrown more than 60 passes in a season at age 43 or older: Vinny Testaverde at age 44, and Testaverde was not good. Brady showed signs of decline last season and it’s alarming that New England seemed uninterested in trying to re-sign him. We have no idea what to expect from a 43-year-old Brady in a brand new situation. It will be fascinating to watch.

Grade: B+

Miami Dolphins

Key additions: CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, DE Shaq Lawson, G Ereck Flowers, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, RB Jordan Howard, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
Key losses: None
Notable re-signings/tags: None

The Dolphins shelled out more than $218 million for their top six additions. Did the Dolphins get good value on their investments? They probably overpaid on Jones, Van Noy, Lawson and Flowers, but it’s going to cost a lot to splash around in the first days of free agency. At least the Dolphins added multiple players who could start right away. Of course old Patriots assistant Brian Flores got three former Patriots players: Van Noy, center Ted Karras and linebacker Elandon Roberts. There needs to be an intervention for these former Patriots coordinators.

Grade: B+

Las Vegas Raiders

Key additions: LB Cory Littleton, DE Carl Nassib, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CB Eli Apple, S Jeff Heath, DT Maliek Collins, TE Jason Witten, WR Nelson Agholor, QB Marcus Mariota
Key losses: LB Tahir Whitehead
Notable re-signings/tags: None

No, they didn’t make a huge move at quarterback. But Mariota is a fine dart throw, and the rest of the signings are pretty good. Littleton, a difference-making three-down linebacker, came at a good price (three years, $35.25 million). Nassib (three years, $25 million) and Kwiatkoski (three years, $21 million) were probably overpaid but not egregiously. There was very little risk in any of the other deals and the Raiders didn’t lose anyone they will miss. There will be Jon Gruden jokes no matter what, but the Raiders had a solid plan.

Grade: B+

A really good offseason so far

Cleveland Browns

Key additions: TE Austin Hooper, OT Jack Conklin, QB Case Keenum, CB Kevin Johnson, S Karl Joseph
Key losses: LB Joe Schobert, LB Christian Kirksey, S Eric Murray
Notable re-signings/tags: None

It’s fair if you don’t want to get too excited about the Browns’ free agency spree. We’ve been down this road before with the Browns and it hasn’t paid off yet. But of the top 10 or so players to switch teams in free agency, the Browns got two. Hooper was the best tight end available and Conklin was the best offensive lineman on the market. Even taking shots on former first-rounders Johnson and Joseph was fine. The Browns have to rebuild their linebacking corps but overall, they got better.

Grade: A-

Buffalo Bills

Key additions: WR Stefon Diggs (trade), OLB Mario Addison, LB A.J. Klein, DT Vernon Butler, DT Quinton Jefferson, CB Josh Norman
Key losses: DT Jordan Phillips, DE Shaq Lawson
Notable re-signings/tags: G Quinton Spain

Some didn’t like how much the Bills gave up to get Diggs. That’s fair. But the Bills had a clear need for a No. 1 receiver and they aren’t easy to find. The Bills also added some contributors for a defense that is already among the best in the NFL. There’s context too: With the Patriots having an uncertain quarterback situation, the Bills felt this is the time to get aggressive.

Grade: A-

The winner of the offseason

Arizona Cardinals

Key additions: WR DeAndre Hopkins (trade), DT Jordan Phillips, OLB Devon Kennard, LB De’Vondre Campbell
Key losses: RB David Johnson (traded), DE Rodney Gunter
Notable re-signings/tags: RB Kenyan Drake (transition tag), WR Larry Fitzgerald

There are very few trades, in any sport, that were as lopsided in the moment as the Texans-Cardinals deal that left everyone baffled. The Cardinals made some needed moves to help the defense, but this grade is simple: They got a Hall of Fame talent at receiver and somehow dumped their worst contract on the Texans. Incredible.

Grade: A

Former Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) will have a huge impact with the Cardinals. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Former Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) will have a huge impact with the Cardinals. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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