Although numerous players have yet to sign contracts, the bulk of the 2012 free free agency class is no longer available.
Every offseason is highlighted by one or two superstar free agents that demand the majority of the media’s attention, but the 2012 offseason might go down as the most hyped period in NFL history due to the availability of one man: Peyton Manning.
After spending his first 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Manning was released by the organization on March 7, one day before he was set to receive a $28 million bonus. What ensued was a nearly two-week long media frenzy that followed every move Manning made, and every rumored team to be in the running to sign the only four-time MVP in NFL history.
Manning signed with the Denver Broncos on March 20, bringing an end to the biggest free agent story ever. But Manning wasn’t the only free agent of 2012, let’s take a look at how well all 32 teams have fared thus far.
Added – William Gay, CB (Steelers); James Sanders, S (Falcons); Adam Snyder, C (49ers).
Re-signed – D’Anthony Batiste, OT; Levi Brown, OT; Calais Campbell, DE (franchised); Early Doucet, WR; Jay Feely, K; Mike Leach, LS; Greg Coler, CB; Reggie Walker, LB.
The Cardinals went all in on Peyton Manning, just as a few other teams did, which hindered their ability to address other, more daunting needs.
Arizona did address one major need, but in somewhat surprising fashion. The team re-signed five-year starting left tackle Levi Brown, who has underachieved since being drafted fifth overall in 2007. The Cardinals also retained wideout Early Doucet, which paves the way for Arizona to find a true No. 2 receiver in the draft and potentially form one of the top receiving corps in the NFL.
By placing a franchise tag on Calais Campbell, the team was able to keep its best defensive player.
The Cardinals’ top addition is cornerback William Gay, who helped Pittsburgh to a 12-4 record in 2011. Gay is coming off his best year as a pro, in which he finished with two interceptions, 13 passes deflected and 61 tackles, all career highs.
Overall, Arizona hasn’t done enough to improve in enough areas to consider the 2012 free agency a success, but it hasn’t been a failure either. Re-signing key pieces allows the team to grow during the draft, but waiting for as long as it did for Manning to say ‘no’ could prove devastating.
Grade – C-plus
Added – None.
Re-signed – John Abraham, DE; Brent Grimes, CB (franchised); Harry Douglas, WR; Todd McClure, C; Chris Redman, QB; Vance Walker, DT; Joe Zelenka, LS.
Lost – Kelvin Hayden, CB (Bears); Curtis Lofton, LB (Saints); James Sanders, S (Cardinals); Eric Weems, WR (Bears).
Atlanta backtracked a bit from its 13-3 form in 2010, finishing 10-6 in 2011. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Falcons lost arguably their best defensive player when linebacker Curtis Loften signed with New Orleans. In all, the team has lost four key members and has yet to add anyone to replace them.
Re-signing John Abraham was perhaps the Falcons’ top priority this offseason, and has been the team’s biggest signing of 2012 so far. The team also franchised Brent Grimes, which many believed would have been used on Lofton.
Atlanta has done nothing to improve its interior offensive line, its running game or its secondary, all major needs coming into the offseason. Retaining six players (only two of which started regularly) does not make up for losing four starters, especially when one of them (Lofton) goes to a division rival.
Grade – D
Added – Sean Considine, S (Cardinals); Corey Graham, CB (Bears).
Re-signed – Brendon Ayanbadejo, LB; Matt Birk, C; Jameel McClain, LB; Ray Rice, RB (franchised); Ladarius Webb, CB.
Lost – Ben Grubbs, OG (Saints); Jarrett Johnson, LB (Chargers); Brandon McKinney, DT (Colts); Haruki Nakamura, S (Panthers); Cory Redding, DT (Colts); Tom Zibikowski (Colts).
The Ravens lost a lot of talent this offseason, and that could be detrimental for a team that was a missed field goal from reaching the Super Bowl. Baltimore has a lot of work to do if it wants to remain a Super Bowl contender, which entails attempting to find replacements for, in addition to others, Grubbs, Johnson, and Redding.
The team placed its franchise tag on All-Pro running back Ray Rice, which will most likely turn into a long-term deal as Baltimore cannot afford to lose the most vital piece of its offense.
Retaining Webb, a restricted free agent, was important for a Ravens team that was fourth in the league in pass defense in 2011.
Perhaps the most devastating loss for Baltimore is Grubbs’ signing with New Orleans. Grubbs is one of the best offensive guards in the NFL, and for a team that thrives by running the football, the effects could be overwhelming.
Losing as much talent as the Ravens did is never easy to overcome, and a lack of activity in free agency could knock Baltimore out of championship contention if it does not draft well.
Grade – C-minus
Added – Mark Anderson, DE (Patriots); Mario Williams, LB (Texans).
Re-signed – Tashard Choice, RB; Derek Hagan, WR; Bryan Scott, S.
Lost – Demetress Bell, OT (Eagles); Roscoe Parrish, WR (Chargers).
The Bills snatched the biggest free agent not named ‘Peyton Manning’ in the 2012 offseason. Buffalo improved an already stout defensive front seven with the signings of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. The Bills’ greatest strength in 2011 was their D-line, which will be among the best in 2012.
Williams was set to be the top free agent before the release of Manning, and although Manning demanded more attention, Williams may be a more dominant player at this point. In other words, Buffalo snagged the best current player available.
The Bills’ defense will be intimidating, but the offense is not as well off. Buffalo has yet to address the offensive side of the football, which could hurt. Te team will most likely add pieces through the draft. In all, it was a successful free agency for the Bills.
Grade – A-minus
Added – Haruki Nakamura, S (Ravens); Kenny Olatolu, LB (Vikings); Mike Pollak, OG (Colts); Reggie Smith, S (49ers); Mike Tolbert, RB (Chargers).
Re-signed – Derek Anderson, QB; Antwan Applewhite, DE; Geoff Hangartner, C.
Lost – Mackenzy Bernadeau, OG (Cowboys); Dan Connor, LB (Cowboys); Geoff Schwarz, OG (Vikings).
Losing Dan Connor will hurt, but the Panthers added a lot of pieces on both sides of the ball to improve overall through free agency.
One of Carolina’s biggest needs was at offensive guard, even before losing both Bernadeau and Schwarz. Signing Mike Pollak will go a long way in restructuring the offensive line, and adding Mike Tolbert to the likes of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart makes the Panthers’ run game even more dynamic.
Although the team signed Kenny Olatolu from Minnesota, it is unlikely he will replace the overall play and leadership of Connor.
Grade – B
Added – Michael Bush, RB (Raiders); Jason Campbell, QB (Raiders); Blake Constanzo, LB (49ers); Kelvin Hayden, CB (Falcons); Brandon Marshall, WR (trade with Dolphins); Devin Thomas, WR (Giants); Eric Weems, WR (Falcons).
Re-signed – Kellen Davis, TE; Matt Forte, RB (franchised); Israel Idonije, DE; Craig Steltz, S.
Lost – Zack Bowman, CB (Vikings); Cory Graham, CB (Ravens); Caleb Hanie, QB (Broncos); Brandon Meriweather, S (Redskins); Frank Omiyale, OT (Seahawks).
To say the least, the Bears have been active during free agency.
Chicago retained its star in Matt Forte, added depth at running back with Michael Bush, found a quality backup quarterback in Jason Campbell, traded for a top-tier receiver by acquiring Brandon Marshall from Miami, signed a duel threat with Eric Weems as a returner and receiver, re-signed its top tight end in Kellen Davis, and found a solid slot receiver in Devin Thomas. But that is just the offense.
On defense, the Bears signed a quality cornerback in Kelvin Hayden, retained stout defensive end Israel Idonije, added depth at linebacker with Blake Constanzo, and re-signed safety Craig Steltz.
Although the team lost the likes of Brandon Meriweather and Zach Bowman, Chicago more than made up for the losses. By addressing so many needs during free agency, management can focus on finding a new left tackle for Jay Cutler in the draft.
Grade – A
Added – Jason Allen, CB (Texans); Jamaal Anderson, DE (Colts); BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB (Patriots); Derrick Harvey, DE (Broncos).
Re-signed – Anthony Collins, OT; Adam Jones, CB; Manny Lawson, LB; Reggie Nelson, S; Mike Nugent, K (franchised); Pat Sims, DT.
Lost – Andre Caldwell, WR (Broncos); Jonathan Fanene, DE (Patriots); Nate Livings, OG (Cowboys); Mike McGlynn, C (Colts); Frostee Rucker, DE (Browns).
Cincinnati added some decent talent with its free agent signings. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is underrated and will help Cedric Benson and the Bengals’ run game more than expected. Green-Ellis could push for the starting role and will get close to, if not more than, Benson’s carry amount.
Keeping Pat Sims, Manny Lawson, Reggie Nelson and Adam “Pacman” Jones, in addition to adding Jason Allen, will allow Cincinnati to remain a playoff threat, but losing Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker will hurt the Bengals’ edge-rushing.
Replacing Andre Caldwell, the team’s No. 3 wideout in 2011, could prove tricky. Caldwell has a lot of potential and showed glimpses of greatness, and although he was inconsistent, it will be difficult for Cincy to find a better slot receiver.
Overall, the 2012 offseason has been successful for the Bengals. Questions remain about the offensive and defensive lines, however.
Grade – B
Added – Juqua Parker, DE (Eagles); Frostee Rucker, DE (Bengals).
Re-signed – Oniel Cousins, OT; Phil Dawson, K (franchised); John Greco, OG; Dimitri Patterson, CB; Alex Smith, TE.
Lost – Mike Adams, S (Broncos); Artis Hicks, OG (Dolphins); Peyton Hillis, RB (Chiefs); Steve Vallos, C (Eagles).
The Browns have not been overly active this offseason, outside of adding a pair of defensive ends. Both Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker will help an already strong Cleveland defense, but the team’s major needs are on the offensive side of the ball.
Peyton Hillis’ departure was expected, but the Browns did not put much effort into finding a quality running back through free agency. Signs are pointing to Cleveland taking Alabama’s Trent Richardson if he is available at No. 4 in the draft.
Losing safety Mike Adams will hurt as Adams was an inspiring leader for the secondary.
Overall, not a great free agency for the Browns so far.
Grade – C
Added – Mackenzy Bernadeau, OG (Panthers); Brandon Carr, CB (Chiefs); Dan Connor, LB (Panthers); Nate Livings, OG (Bengals); Kyle Orton, QB (Chiefs); Brodney Pool, S (Jets); Lawrence Vickers, FB (Texans).
Re-signed – Kevin Ogletree, WR; Anthony Spencer, LB (franchised).
Lost – Martellus Bennett, TE (Giants); Tony Fiametta, FB (Patriots); Laurent Robinson, WR (Jaguars).
The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr, arguably the best cornerback available in free agency. In all, the team has brought in seven players, re-signed two and lost three.
Dallas upgraded its inconsistent defense by adding Dan Connor, Brodney Pool and Carr. By re-signing Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys now sport an elite group of linebackers as Spencer, Connor and DeMarcus Ware will terrorize offenses in 2012.
The Cowboys added a decent backup quarterback in Kyle Orton, a vast improvement over Jon Kitna, and found a very good fullback in Lawrence Vickers. However, losing Laurent Robinson and Martellus Bennet will hurt.
The 2012 offseason is off to a decent start for Dallas.
Grade – B-plus
Added – Mike Adams, S (Browns); Andre Caldwell, WR (Bengals); Joel Dressen, TE (Texans); Caleb Hanie, QB (Bears); Peyton Manning, QB (Colts); Tracy Porter, CB (Saints); Jacob Tamme, TE (Colts).
Re-signed – Jason Hunter, DE; Joe Mays, LB; Matt Prater, K (franchised); Manny Ramirez, OG; Wesley Woodyard, LB.
Lost – Brodrick Bunkley, DT (Saints); Daniel Fells, TE (Patriots); Derrick Harvey, DE (Bengals); Spencer Larsen, FB (Patriots); Brady Quinn, QB (Chiefs); Dante Rasario, TE (Chargers); Eddie Royal, WR (Chargers); Tim Tebow, QB (traded to Jets).
As mentioned above, the Broncos added the biggest name in free agent history when they signed Peyton Manning, a definite future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the quarterback position.
In addition to Manning, Denver added receiver Andre Caldwell, and tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dressen to upgrade the Broncos’ passing game, which finished second to last in 2011. The team also added safety Mike Adams and cornerback Tracy Porter to help a Denver secondary that struggled at times.
Placing a franchise tag on Matt Prater was perhaps the most underrated move the Broncos have made thus far in the offseason. Prater is among the league’s elite kickers, who possesses a strong leg and comes through in the clutch.
Losing Brodrick Bunkley is a huge hit for the Broncos, as they lack depth and skill at the defensive tackle position, as well as having surrendered the 11th most rushing yards in 2011.
Denver’s offseason has been a huge success due to the signing of Manning and the team would have easily earned an A-plus, but by waiting on Manning’s decision, the Broncos missed out on addressing other needs as well as re-signing Bunkley. Still, landing the biggest name ever to hit the open market earns high marks.
Grade – A
Added – Jacob Lacey, CB (Colts).
Re-signed – Cliff Avril, DE (franchised); Jeff Backus, OT; Eric Coleman, S; Andre Fluellen, DT; Ben Graham, P; Shaun Hill, QB; Don Muhlbach, LS; Ashlee Palmer, LB; Kevin Smith, RB; Stephen Tulloch, LB.
Lost – Bobby Carpenter, LB (Patriots); Drew Stanton, QB (signed with Jets, traded to Colts); Eric Wright, CB (Buccaneers).
The Lions did a lot of retaining players, but not much in terms of adding them. Detroit brought in a solid cornerback by signing Jacob Lacey, but that stands as the lone addition to the team.
By franchising Cliff Avril, the Lions kept one of the best defensive lines in the NFL intact. The team also re-signed Stephen Tulloch, who anchors a stout Detroit defense.
Losing Eric Wright could be devastating to a team that is on the brink of becoming a perennial Super Bowl contender, but the team’s talent level remains higher than most.
Although the offseason has not been terrible for the Lions, it has not been great either. Despite re-signing Avril and Tulloch, Detroit has not done enough to warrant a high grade so far in free agency.
Grade – C-plus
Added – Anthony Hargrove, DE (Seahawks); Jeff Saturday, C (Colts).
Re-signed – Jarrett Bush, CB.
Lost – Matt Flynn, QB (Seahawks); Pat Lee, CB (Raiders); Scott Wells, C (Rams).
Green Bay has brought in two new faces, one on each of the the offensive and defensive lines.
The Packers’ biggest signing is Anthony Hargrove, a defensive end that finished with three sacks in 2011 for Seattle.
Jeff Saturday is best known for being Peyton Manning’s center for 13 seasons in Indianapolis, but will now be snapping the ball into Aaron Rodgers’ hands.
Green Bay essentially swapped Saturday in for Scott Wells, who left for St. Louis.
Perhaps the Packers’ biggest free agency news is that they lost former backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who will be the Seahawks’ starter in 2012.
The starters will be more or less the same in 2012, but free agency has not landed much improvement for the Pack.
Grade – C
Added – Donnie Jones, P (Rams).
Re-signed – Quintin Demps, S; Chris Myers, C.
Lost – Jason Allen, CB (Bengals); Mike Brisiel, OG (Raiders); Joel Dressen, TE (Broncos); Lawrence Vickers, FB (Cowboys); Mario Williams, LB (Bills); Eric Winston, OT (Chiefs).
It is difficult to call an offseason a success when the lone new addition to a team is a punter and many of that team’s top players from the previous year have signed with other clubs.
This description describes the Texans more than any team thus far in the 2012 offseason. The team signed Donnie Jones, who punted for St. Louis in 2011. Other than Jones, Houston has re-signed two others, safety Quintin Demps and center Chris Myers. However, the Texans have lost six others to free agency, including All-Pro linebacker Mario Williams, who signed with Buffalo.
Other key losses include cornerback Jason Allen, offensive tackle Eric Winston and fullback Lawrence Vickers, who blocked for the No. 2 rushing attack in the NFL last year.
Overall, the 2012 offseason has not been kind to Houston. The team could have done more to limit the damage though.
Grade – F
Added – Donnie Avery, WR (Titans); Mike McGlynn, C (Bengals); Brandon McKinney, DT (Ravens); Cory Redding, DT (Ravens); Samson Satele, C (Raiders); Drew Stanton, QB (trade with Jets) Tom Zibikowski, S (Ravens).
Re-signed – Robert Mathis, DE (franchised); Reggie Wayne, WR.
Lost – Jamaal Anderson, DE (Bengals); Jerome Felton, FB (Vikings); Pierre Garcon, WR (Redskins); Anthony Gonzalez, WR (Patriots); Jacob Lacey, CB (Lions); Peyton Manning, QB (Broncos); Quinn Ojinnaka, OT (Rams); Dan Orlovsky, QB (Buccaneers); Mike Pollak, OG (Panthers); Jeff Saturday, C (Packers); Jacob Tamme, TE (Broncos); Philip Wheeler, LB (Raiders).
It seems the Colts lost half their roster this offseason, but perhaps the most surprising re-signing throughout the entire league was that of Reggie Wayne deciding to remain with the organization that drafted him in 2001.
Indianapolis also placed a franchise tag on defensive end Robert Mathis, but he and Wayne are the only re-signings thus far.
The biggest additions are former Ravens defensive tackles Brandon McKinney and Cory Redding. The Colts brought in former Tennessee receiver Donnie Avery as well, in preparation for Andrew Luck’s arrival.
One surprise was the release of Peyton Manning, which could come back to haunt Indianapolis if Luck does not pan out.
Not only did most of the impact players from 2011 leave the team, the players that Indy released (mainly Manning), although due to rebuilding, have made the 2012 offseason less than successful.
Grade – C-minus
Added – Chad Henne, QB (Dolphins); Laurent Robinson, WR (Cowboys); Aaron Ross, CB (Giants).
Re-signed – Russell Allen, LB; Courtney Greene, S; Dwight Lowery, S; Jeremy Mincey, DE; C.J. Mosley, DT; Josh Scobee, K (franchised).
Lost – Leger Douzable, DT (Titans); David Garrard, QB (Dolphins).
The Jaguars have had a surprisingly good start to the offseason. The team brought in a receiving threat with Laurent Robinson, a solid cornerback in Aaron Ross and a quality backup quarterback in Chad Henne.
Jacksonville also re-signed a corps of solid players from its underrated defense, including defensive end Jeremy Mincey (eight sacks in 2011).
Losing Legar Douzable and David Garrard do not hurt the Jags in the slightest, but failing to upgrade their offensive line might.
Grade – B-plus
Added – Kevin Boss, TE (Raiders); Peyton Hillis, RB (Browns); Brady Quinn, QB (Broncos); Stanford Routt, CB (Raiders); Eric Winston, OT (Texans).
Re-signed – Javon Belcher, LB; Dwayne Bowe, WR (franchised); Travis Daniels, CB.
Lost – Brandon Carr, CB (Cowboys); La’Ron McClain, FB (Chargers); Kyle Orton (Cowboys).
Keeping Dwayne Bowe was the Chiefs’ No. 1 priority this offseason, and they made sure of it by franchising the wideout.
It was expected to see Brandon Carr sign with a different team, but Kansas City did not miss a beat. The team landed former in-division foe Stanford Routt to fill the spot. Routt was outstanding as a No. 2 corner in Oakland alongside Nnamdi Asomugha, but could not handle No. 1 cornerback duties upon Asomugha’s departure for Philadelphia. In KC, Routt will play opposite Brandon Flowers, a true No. 1, meaning the Chiefs will sport arguably the top cornerback tandem in the league.
Kansas City’s offensive line improved with the signing of tackle Eric Winston. The Chiefs also signed former Browns running back Peyton Hillis, adding a bruiser to pair with the speedy Jamaal Charles in the backfield.
The team’s lone major loss would have been Carr, but the Routt signing negates any setback, making Kansas City’s offseason among the more successful so far. Where the Chiefs lose points is by ignoring the possibility of upgrading their defensive line and receiving corps.
Grade – A-minus
Added – David Garrard, QB (Jaguars); E.J. Henderson, LB (Vikings); Artis Hicks, OG (Browns); Tyrell Johnson, S (Vikings); Richard Marshall, CB (Cardinals); Jamaal Westerman, LB (Jets).
Re-signed – Ryan Baker, DE; Steve Slaton, RB; Paul Soliai, DT.
Lost – Will Allen, CB (Patriots); Chad Henne, QB (Jaguars); Lex Hilliard, RB (Vikings); Kendall Langford, DE (Rams); Brandon Marshall, WR (traded to Bears).
One of Miami’s top needs coming into the 2012 free agency period was at the wide receiver position. However, instead of addressing that need, the team traded away its top receiver by sending Brandon Marshall to Chicago, and the Dolphins have yet to add anyone to fill the void.
Miami does get points for bringing in E.J. Henderson and Richard Marshall to upgrade the linebacker and cornerback positions, respectively.
Losing Kendall Langford will hurt the defensive line, but retaining Paul Soliai and Ryan Baker limits the blow a bit.
The Dolphins’ offseason would have been decent despite losing out on Peyton Manning if they had not traded away their best offensive weapon.
Grade – B-minus
Added – Zack Bowman, CB (Bears); John Carlson, TE (Seahawks); Jerome Felton, FB (Colts); Lex Hilliard, RB (Dolphins); Geoff Schwartz, OG (Panthers).
Re-signed – Devin Aromashodu, WR; Fred Evans, DT; Letroy Guion, DT; Erin Henderson, LB; Sage Rosenfels, QB.
Lost – Cedric Griffin, CB (Redskins); E.J. Henderson, LB (Dolphins); Steve Hutchinson, OT (Titans); Tyrell Johnson, S (Dolphins); Kenny Olatolu, LB (Panthers).
Losing defensive leaders like linebacker E.J. Henderson and cornerback Cedric Griffin is never a good thing, but the Vikings did keep Erin Henderson, which was an important move.
To cope with the loss of Griffin, Minnesota brought in former Bears corner Zack Bowman.
The Vikings also said goodbye to offensive guard Steve Hutchinson, who has been among the best at his position for the entirety of his 11 years in the NFL.
Minnesota has a daunting need at the receiver position, but have not signed any wideouts. Instead, the team brought in John Carlson, who joins fellow former Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph to give Christian Ponder another pass-catching target.
The Vikings have managed to limit their losses, but have not done enough to get any better on paper.
Grade – C-plus
Added – Will Allen, CB (Dolphins); Bobby Carpenter, LB (Lions); Marquice Cole, CB (Jets); Jonathan Fanene, DE (Bengals); Daniel Fells, TE (Broncos); Tony Fiametta, FB (Cowboys); Robert Gallery, OG (Seahawks); Anthony Gonzalez, WR (Colts); Steve Gregory, S (Chargers); Spencer Larsen, FB (Broncos); Brandon Lloyd, WR (Rams); Trevor Scott, DE (Raiders); Donte’ Stallworth, WR (Redskins).
Re-signed – Deion Branch, WR; Dan Connolly, OG; Brian Hoyer, QB; Matthew Slater, WR; Wes Welker, WR (franchised); Tracy White, LB.
Lost – Mark Anderson, DE (Bills); BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB (Bengals).
If there were a prize for most free agents signed, the Patriots would win hands down. New England has signed 13 new players and re-signed six, while losing only two.
The team signed Jonathan Fanene in an attempt to replace Mark Anderson and his 10 sacks.
Perhaps the Pats’ biggest addition is Brandon Lloyd, who has emerged as an elite wideout over the past two seasons. New England relied on its tight ends more than any team in the league in 2011, mainly due to a lack of talent at the receiver positions. Adding Lloyd will spread the field much like Randy Moss did in 2007, when the Patriots became the first team to go undefeated in a 16-game regular season.
New England also retained Wes Welker by franchising the All-Pro receiver.
Adding Robert Gallery will help in the run game, but losing BenJarvus Green-Ellis limits the Patriots’ effectiveness. Not finding a replacement for Green-Ellis is perhaps the only area New England did not excel during free agency.
Grade – A-minus
Added – Brodrick Bunkley, DT (Broncos); Chris Chamberlain, LB (Rams); Ben Grubbs, OG (Ravens); David Hawthorne, LB (Seahawks); Curtis Lofton, LB (Falcons).
Re-signed – Drew Brees, QB (franchised); Turk McBride, DE.
Lost – Jo-Lonn Dunbarr, LB (Rams); Robert Meachem, WR (Chargers); Carl Nicks, OG (Buccaneers); Tracy Porter, CB (Broncos).
For a team going through the allocations that came from its illegal bounty program, New Orleans has done extremely well in free agency.
Although Drew Brees is unhappy with the franchise tag, it is unlikely management will hold off from making a lucrative offer for too long.
But Brees, for once, is not the big news as the Saints have brought in five new players, and each one is of high quality.
After losing Carl Nicks to the Buccaneers, New Orleans signed Ben Grubbs, another All-Pro caliber offensive guard. The team also added defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley after his career year in Denver, and Curtis Lofton, who has been among the top linebackers throughout his four-year career.
By signing David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain, the Saints added depth and talent to an already solid linebacking corps.
The only areas not addressed by the team were cornerback and receiver, but the wideout position is so deep in New Orleans that it is not as daunting. The Saints lost corner Tracy Porter and receiver Robert Meachem, but have not found replacements.
Grade – A-minus
Added – Martellus Bennett, TE (Cowboys).
Re-signed – David Carr, QB; Michael Coe, CB; Terrell Thomas, CB; Justin Tryon, CB; Steve Weatherford, P (franchised).
Lost – Brandon Jacobs, RB (49ers); Mario Manningham, WR (49ers); Aaron Ross, CB (Jaguars); Devin Thomas, WR (Bears).
It seems the Giants have done nothing but lose key players this offseason.
Although New York retained a couple cornerbacks, its backup quarterback, and a punter, the team lost Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross, two of the more important players during the Giants’ Super Bowl run.
Due to the release of Brandon Jacobs, the team badly needs depth at both the running back and receiver positions.
The lone move keeping New York from a failing grade is the addition of Martellus Bennett. Bennett is a great pickup, but overall, the Giants have not done much in free agency.
Grade – D
Added – LaRon Landry, S (Redskins); Chaz Schillens, WR (Raiders); Tim Tebow, QB (trade with Broncos).
Re-signed – Nick Folk, K; Bryan Thomas, LB.
Lost – Marquice Cole, CB (Patriots); Matthew Mulligan, TE (Rams); Brodney Pool, S (Cowboys); Drew Stanton, QB (signed as free agent, traded to Colts) Robert Turner, OG (Rams); Jamaal Westerman, LB (Dolphins).
The Jets countered the loss of Brodney Pool by signing LaRon Landry, which should pay off as Landry proved to a solid safety in Washington.
New York also signed Chaz Schillens, giving the team another, desperately needed receiving threat.
The big news for the Jets this offseason is the addition of former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. After the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, New York traded for the quarterback that took the league by storm in 2011. Mark Sanchez reportedly remains the starter, but then again, so did Kyle Orton before Tebow spelled his demise in Denver…
The Jets are going to be an interesting team to watch in 2012.
Grade – B-minus
Added – Ron Bartell, CB (Rams); Mike Brisiel, OG (Texans); Pat Lee, CB (Packers); Shawntae Spencer, CB (49ers); Philip Wheeler, LB (Colts).
Re-signed – Khalif Barnes, OT; Tyvon Branch, S (franchised).
Lost – Kevin Boss, TE (Chiefs); Michael Bush, RB (Bears); Jason Campbell, QB (Bears); Rock Cartwright, RB (49ers); Stanford Routt, CB (Chiefs); Samson Satele, C (Colts); Chaz Schillens, WR (Jets); Trevor Scott, DE (Patriots); Kamerion Wimbley, LB (Titans).
Oakland has seemingly lost more than it has brought in so far this offseason.
Despite signing cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Pat Lee and Shawntae Spencer, the Raiders will miss Stanford Routt. Bartell is now the best corner on Oakland’s roster, but that is not promising.
Routt was not the only quality player the team lost. Kevin Boss, Michael Bush, Jason Campbell, Rock Cartwright, Chaz Schillens, Trevor Scott and Kamerion Wimbley are all impact players no longer on the Raiders’ roster. Bush, Scott and Wimbley will be the most missed, however.
The Raiders simply lost too many pieces to consider the 2012 free agency period a success.
Grade – D-plus
Added – Demetress Bell, OT (Bills); Mike Gibson, OG (Seahawks); Steve Vallos, C (Browns).
Re-signed – Antonio Dixon, DT; King Dunlap, OT; DeSean Jackson, WR (franchised); Evan Mathis, OG.
Lost – Juqua Parker, DE (Browns); Steve Smith, WR (Rams).
Philadelphia has not done much in free agency aside from re-signing DeSean Jackson and adding a trio of offensive linemen.
Jackson was the team’s priority this offseason, but it seems focusing on making the wideout happy distracted the Eagles from finding players to help improve their roster.
Philly lost Juqua Parker and Steve Smith, and did not find replacements. With the talent already on the team, it is unlikely the losses of Parker and Smith will be detrimental, but the Eagles did not use free agency to improve at all. If anything, the team backtracked.
Grade – C-minus
Added – None.
Re-signed – Ramon Foster, OG.
Lost – William Gay, CB (Cardinals); Jamon Meredith, OT (Buccaneers); Hines Ward (retired).
The Steelers entered the 2012 offseason with tough decisions to make due to their being over the salary cap limit, which led to the release of numerous impact players and an inability to bring in new players.
Losing William Gay will hurt, and re-signing Ramon Foster does not fill the void.
With the inactivity displayed so far by Pittsburgh, it is difficult to believe the team will be able to keep up with the other elite teams in the AFC.
Grade – F
Added – Atari Bigby, S (Seahawks); Jarrett Johnson, LB (Ravens); La’Ron McClain, FB (Chiefs); Robert Meachem, WR (Saints); Roscoe Parrish, WR (Bills); Dante Rosario, TE (Broncos); Eddie Royal, WR (Broncos); Michael Spurlock, WR (Buccaneers); Charlie Whitehurst, QB (Seahawks).
Re-signed – Jared Gaither, OT; Antonio Garay, DT; Randy McMichael, TE; Tony Moll, OG; Kory Sperry, TE.
Lost – Steve Gregory, S (Patriots); Vincent Jackson, WR (Buccaneers); Mike Tolbert, RB (Panthers).
After Vincent Jackson signed with Tampa Bay, things did not look good for San Diego. The team reacted by signing Eddie Royal, Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish and Michael Spurlock.
The Chargers also added a solid linebacker in Jarrett Johnson, a good safety in Atari Bigby, a top-tier fullback in La’Ron McClain and a decent backup quarterback in Charlie Whitehurst, who spent his first four seasons in San Diego.
Other than losing Jackson, starting safety Steve Gregory and No. 2 running back Mike Tolbert, the Chargers have enjoyed a very good offseason thus far.
Grade – A-minus
Added – Rock Cartwright, RB (Raiders); Brandon Jacobs, RB (Giants); Josh Johnson, QB (Buccaneers); Mario Manningham, WR (Giants); Randy Moss (came out of retirement).
Re-signed – Ted Ginn, WR; Dashon Goldson, S (franchised); Tavares Goodin, LB; Carlos Rodgers, CB; Alex Smith, QB.
Lost – Blake Constanzo, LB (Bears); Josh Morgan, WR (Redskins); Reggie Smith, S (Panthers); Adam Snyder, C (Cardinals); Shawntae Spencer, CB (Raiders).
The 49ers have only addressed the offense as far as bringing in new players, but they have re-signed a few impact players from last year’s team that made an NFC championship appearance.
Despite losing out on Peyton Manning, San Francisco was able to re-sign Alex Smith, who was clearly frustrated with the team’s pursuit of Manning. In addition to locking up their QB, and backup QB in Josh Johnson, the 49ers addressed their passing game by bringing in two receivers: Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. The team also signed running backs Brandon Jacobs and Rock Cartwright.
San Francisco franchised safety Dashon Goldson while re-signing cornerback Carlos Rodgers and linebacker Tavares Goodin, somewhat maintaining the pieces of its dominant defense from 2011.
Grade – B
Added – Matt Flynn, QB (Packers); Jason Jones, DT (Titans); Kregg Lumpkin, RB (Buccaneers); Deuce Lutui, OG (Cardinals); Frank Omiyale, OT (Bears); Barrett Rudd, LB (Titans).
Re-signed – Red Bryant, DE; Heath Farwell, LB; Roy Lewis, CB; Marshawn Lynch, RB; Paul McQuistan, OG; Michael Robinson, RB.
Lost – Atari Bigby, S (Chargers); John Carlson, TE (Vikings); Robert Gallery, OG (Patriots); Mike Gibson, OG (Eagles); Anthony Hargrove, DE (Packers); David Hawthorne, LB (Saints); Charlie Whitehurst, QB (Chargers).
How devastating would losing Marshawn Lynch be for the Seahawks? Seattle did not want to find out as it placed a re-signed the Pro-Bowl running back to a multi-year contract an hour before the franchise tag deadline.
The same question could be asked of Red Bryant, but the team locked him up as well.
In addition to re-signing Lynch and Bryant, the Seahawks found what they believe to be their quarterback of the future in Matt Flynn. Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against Detroit in his lone start of 2011, which caught the eye for teams with needs at quarterback across the league. Seattle emerged the winner of the former Green Bay backup.
The Seahawks lost linebacker David Hawthorne to the Saints, which could hurt, but their signing of Barrett Rudd will limit the blow.
Overall, Seattle has done well in free agency.
Grade – B-plus
Added – Jo-Lonn Dunbar, LB (Saints); Cortland Finnegan, CB (Titans); William Hayes, DE (Titans); Kendall Langford, DE (Dolphins); Matthew Mulligan, TE (Jets); Quinn Ojinnaka, OT (Colts); Steve Smith, WR (Eagles); Robert Turner, OG (Jets); Scott Wells, C (Packers).
Re-signed – None.
Lost – Ron Bartell, CB (Raiders); Chris Chamberlain, LB (Saints); Donnie Jones, P (Texans); Brandon Lloyd, WR (Patriots).
As made apparent by the nine players in the “added” section, St. Louis has been very active in free agency. Although they have yet to re-sign anyone, the Rams have landed some of the top talent available this offseason.
The team snagged Cortland Finnegan, one of the best free agent cornerbacks of 2012, along with underrated defensive end Kendall Langford, and solid center Scott Wells.
Losing Brandon Lloyd hurts a St. Louis team that struggled to move the ball through the air (30th in 2011), but signing Steve Smith will help fill the void a bit.
The team did address many of its original offseason needs, and improved in many areas. However, the Rams still have a lot of work to do come draft day, just as any team that finishes 2-14 would. St. Louis has managed to improve and despite losing Lloyd, the 2012 free agency period has been successful.
Grade – A-minus
Added– Vincent Jackson, WR (Chargers); Jamon Meredith, OT (Steelers); Carl Nicks, OG (Saints); Dan Orlovsky, QB (Colts); Eric Wright, CB (Lions).
Re-signed – Ronde Barber, CB; Connor Barth, K (franchised); Michael Bennet, DL; Demar Dotson, OT.
Lost – Josh Johnson, QB (49ers); Kregg Lumpkin, RB (Seahawks); Michael Spurlock, WR (Chargers).
Tampa Bay was aggressive to start free agency. Within the first few days, the Buccaneers locked up Pro-Bowl players Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, which demanded the vast majority of the team’s available salary cap space.
Jackson gives Josh Freeman a target like none he has ever had in his brief three-year career – a reliable option that makes opposing teams nervous. The Jackson signing essentially makes the loss of Michael Spurlock irrelevant.
Tampa landed the top offensive lineman available in Nicks, who may very well be the best guard in all of football. Nicks was a perennial Pro-Bowler and All-Pro at New Orleans, and the Bucs are hoping he continues that dominant play for them.
The team also brought in cornerback Eric Wright, who helped Detroit to its first playoff appearance in 12 seasons in 2011.
Tampa Bay has not made the postseason since 2007, and is looking for its “big three” signings of Jackson, Nicks and Wright to put it into the playoffs again.
The Buccaneers have had a great offseason so far. The team improved in enough areas and addressed many of its needs while limiting its losses, making Tampa Bay’s free agency period a major success.
Grade – A
Added – Leger Douzable, DT (Jaguars); Steve Hutchinson, OT (Vikings); Kamerion Wimbley, LB (Raiders).
Re-signed – Michael Griffin, S (franchised); Tim Shaw, LB.
Lost – Donnie Avery, WR (Colts); Cortland Finnegan, CB (Rams); William Hayes, DE (Rams); Jason Jones, DT (Seahawks); Barrett Rudd, LB (Seahawks).
Tennessee was another team that went all in on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and lost. However, the Titans were able to recover fairly well.
The team originally brought in Steve Hutchinson as a tactic to lure Manning, but Hutchinson has been a dominant left tackle for his entire 11-year career and will vastly improve the Tennessee O-line.
Despite losing Barrett Rudd, the Titans signed Kamerion Wimbley, who has shown flashes of greatness at times during his six-year career.
By franchising safety Michael Griffin, Tennessee maintained some stability and leadership for an underrated Titans defense. However, losing Cortland Finnegan could be devastating for the secondary.
Grade – B
Added – Pierre Garcon, WR (Colts); Cedric Griffin, CB (Vikings); Brandon Meriweather, S (Bears); Josh Morgan, WR (49ers).
Re-signed – Adam Carriker, DE; Fred Davis, TE (franchised); Rex Grossman, QB; Kory Lichtensteiger, OG.
Lost – LaRon Landry, S (Jets); Dante’ Stallworth, WR (Patriots).
It comes as no surprise that Washington has locked up some of the bigger names in free agency.
Signing Pierre Garcon, a No. 2 receiver in Indianapolis, and Josh Morgan, who sat out the majority of 2011 with a leg injury, allow for the Redskins to find their quarterback of the future in the draft. Franchising Fred Davis shows that Washington is looking to solidify its passing game, but that can only happen with a new person under center, which the team did not find in free agency.
The Redskins also added Cedric Griffin, a solid cornerback with excellent leadership quality, and Brandon Meriweather, a hard-hitting safety who is used to winning as he was a starter for New England from 2007-10.
Washington’s re-signing of defensive end Adam Carriker is perhaps the most underrated and important move the Redskins have made thus far. Carriker has started and played in 63 of the team’s 64 games over the past four seasons.
Washington gets docked for almost entirely ignoring its offensive line needs. Although they re-signed guard Kory Lichtensteiger, the Redskins entered the 2012 free agency period with a less-than average O-line, and have yet to bring in players to improve upon that weakness. Overall, however, it has been a good offseason for Washington.
Grade – B-plus