Friday, April 19, 2024
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2024 NFL free agency team-by-team grades: Steelers boldly improving roster; quiet Cowboys need improvement

The 2024 NFL offseason is operating at full power. 

Many high-profile players already moved on to new football homes on Day 1 including quarterback Kirk Cousins, who moved on from the Minnesota Vikings to the Atlanta Falcons. Edge rusher Brian Burns was traded from the Carolina Panthers to the New York Giants and signed a new deal. Running back Saquon Barkley, who left the Giants to sign with an NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. Plus, running back Josh Jacobs, who departed the Las Vegas for the Green Bay Packers.  

Day 2 included edge rusher Danielle Hunter leaving the Vikings for the Houston Texans, running back Joe Mixon being traded to the Texans from the Bengals and Derrick Henry linking up with 2023 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. 

The first official day of free agency also included some fireworks, none bigger than Calvin Ridley finding a new home in Nashville. That wasn’t the only notable name the Titans signed on Wednesday, as former Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph agreed to a one-year deal with the team. Speaking of the Steelers, Pittsburgh made another move at QB after they acquired Justin Fields after trading Kenny Pickett to Philadelphia. Fields will back up Russell Wilson, who was signed by the Steelers last week. 

From blockbuster trades to stunning signings, we’ve got what you need to know about each team’s notable 2024 offseason additions. Plus, grades for their trades and signings from A to Z:    

Arizona Cardinals: C

Key additions: DL Justin Jones, LB Mack Wilson, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, OT Jonah Williams, QB Desmond Ridder

Key re-signings: G Trystan Colon, OL Keith Ishmael

Key departures: LT DJ Humphries, WR Rondale Moore

The Arizona Cardinals entered the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period flush with money to spend, $56.6 million in cap room, the fifth-most in the NFL, but they didn’t make any major moves.  Re-upping starting left guard Trystan Colon, whose 69.2 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade ranked as the 18th-best in the NFL among guards with at least 100 offensive snaps, is an unspectacular but solid move. The addition of defensive tackle Justin Jones, 28-years-old on Aug. 28, who paced the 2023 Chicago Bears in quarterback hits (17) and tackles for loss (10) is an affordable pact to upgrade along the line of scrimmage. Arizona continued to reinforce its defense, head coach Jonathan Gannon’s side of the ball, with deals for linebacker Mack Wilson and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. Murphy-Bunting registered a 62.4 passer rating as the primary defender in coverage, the 17th-best in the league among 71 players with at least 70 passes thrown their way. Williams comes to Arizona after having an up-and-down tenure in Cincinnati. 

Atlanta Falcons: A

Key additions: QB Kirk Cousins, WR Darnell Mooney, WR Rondale Moore

Key re-signings: LS Liam McCullough (player announcement

Key departures: TE Jonnu Smith, CB Jeff Okudah, QB Desmond Ridder

The Atlanta Falcons now have a complete offense. An explosive young running back (Bijan Robinson, the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft whose 1,463 scrimmage yards were the most by a rookie in team history), two incredibly athletically-gifted pass-catchers (2021 fourth overall draft pick tight end Kyle Pitts and 2022 eighth overall draft pick wide receiver Drake London) and a strong offensive line (quarterback pressure rate allowed of 31.1% last year, fifth in the NFL, led by PFF’s highest-graded guard Chris Lindstrom, 89.7 PFF offensive grade). Kirk Cousins (four years, $180 million; $100 million guaranteed) is the distributor of the football this squad has sorely lacked. The Falcons also filled their third pass-catcher slot with former Chicago Darnell Mooney via a three-year, $39 million pact and added depth with the addition of Moore. He’ll have a chance to reignite his career at age 27 in 2024 after being trapped in a run-first offense. 

Baltimore Ravens: A-

Key additions: RB Derrick Henry

Key re-signings: DL Justin Madubuike, WR Nelson Agholor 

Key departures: RB Gus Edwards, G John Simpson, S Geno Stone, LB Patrick Queen, LS Tyler Ott

The Ravens retaining one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles in Justin Madubuike (four years, $98 million) — led all DTs in sacks (13.0), QB hits (33) and QB pressures as a three-technique, per Next Gen Stats (38) — is a great start for the league’s top defense. Swapping out running back Gus Edwards, who has since departed to the other Harbaugh out West with the Los Angeles Chargers, for Derrick “King” Henry (two years, $16 million) is a significant upgrade. Baltimore now has the NFL’s most dynamic backfield with him and 2023 NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Losing Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Queen is an adjustment, but the Ravens develop the inside backer as good as anyone in the NFL. 

Buffalo Bills: C+

Key additions: QB Mitchell Trubisky, LB Nicholas Morrow, WR Curtis Samuel 

Key re-signings: LT Dion Dawkins, G David Edwards, S Taylor Rapp, DE A.J. Epenesa, DT DaQuan Jones 

Key departures: WR Gabe Davis, DE Leonard Floyd, S Jordan Poyer, DB Siran Neal, WR Deonte Harty, C Mitch Morse, RB Nyheim Hines, CB Cam Lewis, S Jordan Poyer

The Buffalo Bills entered the offseason with a massive cap space deficit, so they released six players to open up over $37 million in cap space. Buffalo was able to re-sign left tackle Dion Dawkins, a solid deal for Josh Allen’s blindside protector. Their re-signing of left guard David Edwards was a shrewd move by general manager Brandon Beane to bring back a starter at an incredible affordable rate. Ditto for edge rusher A.J. Epenesa’s contract. Their salary cap situation precluded them from really going after any external help other than the return of Mitch Trubisky as their backup quarterback. Beane did a great job with the situation he faced this offseason, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not great to lose solid contributors like Leonard Floyd (49ers) and Jordan Poyer (Dolphins). Samuel takes a different role than Gabe Davis, but he’s a solid pickup. 

Carolina Panthers: C+

Key additions: Robert Hunt, G Damien Lewis, WR Diontae Johnson (via trade with Steelers), DT A’Shawn Robinson, LB Josey Jewell, WR Diontae Johnson (acquired via trade with Steelers), CB Dane Jackson 

Key re-signings: CB Troy Hill, LS J.J. Jansen 

Key departures: DE Brian Burns (traded to New York Giants in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick (No. 39 overall) and a 2025 fifth-round pick in the deal, according to the MMQB), LB Frankie Luvu , CB Donte Jackson (traded to Steelers)

The Carolina Panthers are overhauling their roster in Year 1 of a new regime with general manager Dan Morgan and head coach Dave Canales. They are bringing in former Miami Dolphins guard Robert Hunt on a deal that is the second-highest in average per year ($20 million) and total value ($100 million) among NFL guard contracts, according to OverTheCap.com. Hunt was Pro Football Focus’ eighth-highest-graded guard in 2023 among those with at least 100 snaps played with a 76.4 offensive grade. He allowed only one sack and three quarterback pressures last season. Carolina’s quarterback pressure rate of 41.1% was the fourth-worst in the NFL last season while they surrendered 65 sacks, tied for the second-most allowed by any team in the league with the Washington Commanders. Naturally, quarterback Bryce Young, the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, who was under pressure on 40.7% of his throws last season, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL, had a 73.7 passer rating when pressured, the worst in the entire league. However, the Panthers surrendered an A-list pass-rusher (Brian Burns) for pennies on the dollar, which weighs down their grade. Johnson immediately becomes Young’s WR1 in Charlotte, leapfrogging Adam Thielen on the depth chart. The Panthers are acquiring Johnson and a seventh-round pick (240 overall) in exchange for cornerback Donte Jackson and a sixth-round pick (178 overall), according to NFL Media. Johnson has eclipsed 50+ catches and 600+ receiving yards in all five of his career, making him one of only 16 players to do so since he entered the league in 2019. Dane Jackson will replace Donte in the starting lineup. 

Chicago Bears: C

Key additions: RB D’Andre Swift, OL Ryan Bates, S Kevin Byard, S Jonathan Owens, TE Gerald Everett

Key re-signings: CB Jaylon Johnson, LS Patrick Scales 

Key departures: DL Justin Jones, WR Darnell Mooney

The Chicago Bears appear to have overpaid at non-premium positions for consecutive offseasons. Last year, they spent big on two inside linebackers Tremaine Edmunds (4 years, $72 million) and T.J. Edwards (three years, $19.5M). This year, they immediately paid running back D’Andre Swift (three years, 24 million) and safety Kevin Byard (Two years, $15 million). Swift put up career-highs across the board in 2023, but it will be interesting to see if he can avoid a Miles Sanders-like fall off after leaving the Eagles offensive line. Byard has lost a few steps now that he is on the wrong side of 30. Locking down Jaylon Johnson is what is propping up their grade. He earned Pro Football Focus’ highest defensive grade among corners in 2023 (90.8). Johnson hauled in a career-high four interceptions, thus earning second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl accolades. 

Cincinnati Bengals: B

Key additions: S Geno Stone, RB Zack Moss, TE Mike Gesicki

Key re-signings: WR Tee Higgins (franchise tag), TE Drew Sample, G Cody Ford

Key departures: RB Joe Mixon (traded to Houston Texans, CB Chidobe Awuzie , TE Irv Smith

The Bengals strengthened the back end of their secondary and subtracted from the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens with the signing of safety Geno Stone, whose seven interceptions in 2023 were the second-most in the entire NFL. Cincy’s ground game became more affordable and athletic with the subtraction of Joe Mixon and the addition of Zack Moss. Mixon hasn’t averaged over 4.1 yards per carry since his second season back in 2018. Moss has exceeded that figure in three of his four seasons. New tight end Mike Gesicki is an upgrade as a pass-catching threat over Irv Smith. However, a cloud hangs over their offseason because of the uncertainty around Tee Higgins’ long-term future. He demanded a trade if the Bengals aren’t going to give him a multi-year extension. The team can certainly ignore his request, but that could create an awkward locker room dynamic in 2024. 

Cleveland Browns: B+

Key additions: WR Jerry Jeudy (acquired via trade with Denver Broncos), QB Jameis Winston

Key re-signings: DE Za’Darius Smith, G Michael Dunn

Key departures: LB Sione Takitaki, LB Anthony Walker , CB Mike Ford

General manager Andrew Berry extended his run of success when it comes to pouncing on deals involving talented wide receivers for late-round picks. A few years back it was landing Amari Cooper for a fifth-round pick, and now it’s reeling in the 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft in wideout Jerry Jeudy from the Denver Broncos. The 24-year-old is talented, and perhaps he can be unlocked while playing alongside Cooper. This was a low-risk, high-reward move for a team that doesn’t have much of an ability to acquire external talent because of its cap situation. Signing Jameis Winston to be Deshaun Watson’s backup was a shrewd move. They have a younger fill-in than Joe Flacco, which means Winston could be a multi-year answer if Watson suffers another injury or cannot rediscover his Pro Bowl-caliber play. 

Dallas Cowboys: D

Key additions: LB Eric Kendricks 

Key re-signings: LS Trent Sieg, NT Neville Gallimore 

Key departures: RB Tony Pollard, C Tyler Biadasz, DE Dorance Armstrong 

The Dallas Cowboys were the only team in the entire NFL not to sign anybody on Monday, but they finally joined the action on Tuesday by re-signing long snapper Trent Sieg. That’s in direct oppposition to owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ all-in claims at the end of the 2023 season. In order for the Cowboys to have the cap space to be players in free agency, they needed to do contract extensions with 2023 Second-Team All-Pro quarterback Dak Prescott and 2023 First-Team All-Pro wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in order to spread their cap hits across future seasons. This inactivity indicates the Cowboys front office doesn’t mind not being able to make many moves at the start of free agency. This nonchalant attitude only hurts the team and precludes them from re-signing eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore and a running back to replace Pollard among other critical transactions. Kendricks was a big signing; he fills the Cowboys’ ILB issue and the fact that he chose Dallas over the 49ers is icing on the cake. 

Denver Broncos: F

Key additions: Brandon Jones, DT Malcolm Roach

Key re-signings: P.J. Locke, K Wil Lutz, FB Michael Burton 

Key departures: Justin Simmons, QB Russell Wilson, WR Jerry Jeudy, C Lloyd Cushenberry, LB Josey Jewell 

The Denver Broncos are starting over. They decided they would rather eat $85 million as a dead cap hit than have quarterback Russell Wilson play a single snap on the five-year, $245 million extension they signed him to before he took a snap for the franchise. That decision has a ripple effect over everything else the Broncos do. Denver cut four-time Second-Team All-Pro safety Justin Simmons to save $14.5 million in cap space despite him being an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 2023. It will jumpstart the team’s rebuild, but kicking a team captain and baller like Simmons, who is still producing, to the curb is a tough look. 

Detroit Lions: B+

Key additions: CB Carlton Davis (acquired via trade with Tampa Bay Buccaneers), DE Marcus Davenport, DT D.J. Reader

Key re-signings: OL Graham Glasgow, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, CB Emmanuel Moseley, K Michael Badgley 

Key departures: Jonah Jackson, QB Teddy Bridgewater (retirement), C.J. Gardner-Johnson

The Detroit Lions secondary took one step forward and one step back this offseason. They added a new top corner in Carlton Davis, whose 76.3 passer rating allowed as the primary defender in coverage in 2023 tied for 20th in the NFL among 39 players with at least 80 passes thrown their way. However, they lost safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson as he returned to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday with a three-year contract worth up to $33 million. They needed to get Aidan Hutchinson a pass-rush running mate, and while D.J. Reader isn’t that, he provides a veteran presence on the interior. Hutchinson racked up 11.5 sacks in the regular season, but the rest of Detroit’s roster contributed 29.5 sacks for a team aggregate number of 41, tied for the ninth-fewest in the league. They struggled converting quarterback sack opportunities into sacks themselves: the Lions’ 41.6% team quarterback pressure rate was the fourth-best in the entire NFL in the regular season, but their 6.5% team sack rate was the 11th-lowest in the league this past season. That’s why taking a flier on 2018 first-round pick edge rusher Marcus Davenport makes sense. Keeping Glasgow, one of the best run-blocking guards in the league, was critical to the smashmouth style of football Dan Campbell likes to play. 

Green Bay Packers: A-

Key additions: RB Josh Jacobs, S Xavier McKinney 

Key re-signings: CB/returner Keisean Nixon, CB Corey Ballentine, TE Tyler Davis

Key departures: RB Aaron Jones (released, agreed to terms with Vikings), LT David Bakhtiari (released), G Jon Runyan Jr., S Darnell Savage, S Jonathan Owens

The Packers cleaned up on the first day of the legal tampering period on Monday with Aaron Rodgers‘ $40 million dead cap hit off of their books this offseason. Green Bay signed the best safety on the free agent market in 24-year-old New York Giant Xavier McKinney. Green Bay forced a tight window throw on only 12.4% of their opponents pass attempts in 2023, the third-lowest rate in the NFL, according to the league’s Next Gen Stats. McKinney led all players who lined up at safety and had at least 20 passes thrown their way in forcing tight window throws with an NFL-best 30.8% tight window throw percentage. Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL’s best safety in coverage (91.2 coverage grade) as he totaled three interceptions while not allowing any passing touchdowns in 2023. They also re-signed cornerback Keisean Nixon, who was named a First-Team All-Pro kick returner in each of the last two seasons, to a three-year, $18 million deal on Tuesday. On the other side of the ball, the Packers signed two-time Pro Bowler and 2022 rushing champion running back Josh Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million deal to add both some youth (26-years-old) and size (5-foot-10, 223 pounds) to their backfield. The only reason Green Bay doesn’t get an A or A+ is because they were unable to find a contractual solution to keep Aaron Jones after they asked him to take a pay cut following the Jacobs signing, which led to him spitefully joining the Minnesota Vikings.

Houston Texans: B+

Key additions: RB Joe Mixon (via trade with Bengals), DE Danielle Hunter, DL Denico Autry, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, CB Lonnie Johnson, CB Jeff Okudah 

Key re-signings: TE Dalton Schultz, K Ka’imi Fairbairn

Key departures: RB Devin Singletary, DE Jonathan Greenard, LB Blake Cashman 

The focus was clear for general manager Nick Caserio: defense, defense, defense. Quarterback C.J. Stroud, the 2023 Offensive Rookie of the Year, had a phenomenal season, leading the NFL in touchdown-to-interception ratio (23-5) while throwing to fellow rookie Tank DellNico Collins and tight end Dalton Schultz. Houston was eliminated by the ground-and-pound Baltimore Ravens last postseason and now with the signings of Autry and Al-Shaair, the Texans are much more equipped to handle physical, postseason play. Then came the real needle mover: former Vikings four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Danielle Hunter, who they signed to a two-year, $49 million deal on Tuesday. Pairing him with Will Anderson Jr. forms one of the best pass-rush duos in the entire league. Houston also upgraded from Devin Singletary to Joe Mixon on Tuesday by sending a seventh-round pick Cincy’s way. 

Indianapolis Colts: B

Key additions: QB Joe Flacco 

Key re-signings: WR Michael Pittman Jr., DE Tyquan Lewis, LB Zaire Franklin, DT Grover Stewart, CB Kenny Moore II, P Rigoberto Sanchez

Key departures: QB Gardner Minshew, RB Zack Moss, WR Isaiah McKenzie

Retaining Pittman was a must for Colts general manager Chris Ballard, and he was able to get a deal done with his top wideout, huge-plus for Anthony Richardson’s development. Pittman’s breakout occurred in 2023: he went off for his first 100-catch season in his age-26 season with his 109 catches ranking as the fifth most in the NFL last season and tied for the fourth most in a single season in Colts history. They are the most by a player in Indy since current wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne’s 111 back in the 2010 season. Returning the core of Colts defense was at reasonable rates was also solid work. The Flacco signing is odd. He gives the Colts depth, but it comes at a steep price ($8.7 million). 

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+

Key additions: QB Mac Jones (acquired via trade with Patriots), WR Gabe Davis, C Mitch Morse, S Darnell Savage, DT Arik Armstead, WR K.J. Osborn 

Key re-signings: DE Josh Allen (franchise tag), G Ezra Cleveland

Key departures: Brandon McManus, CB Darious WIlliams, Calvin Ridley

The Jaguars’ offense took a step back in 2023 after injuries to quarterback Trevor Lawrence and poor blocking up front. Jacksonville did a solid job addressing some of those areas of need immediately between the acquisition of center Mitch Morse and wide receiver Gabe Davis. Lawrence could have used Davis’ size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) down in the red zone last season. Darnell Savage also represents a younger, more explosive player to fill the free safety role vacated by Rayshawn Jenkins‘ release. Jacksonville did what they could given a limited amount of cap space this offseason. They could earn a higher grade, though, if they extend Josh Allen, who set the team’s single-season sacks record (17.5 in 2023), and not have him play out next season on the tag. The addition of Armstead makes the pass rush more formidable. 

Kansas City Chiefs: B+

Key additions: P Matt Araiza, TE Irv Smith

Key re-signings: DT Chris Jones, CB L’Jarius Sneed, LB Drue Tranquill 

Key departures: OL Nick Allegretti, LB Willie Gay Jr. 

The two-time defending Super Bowl champions took care of their most pressing business this offseason by re-signing two-time First-Team All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones to a long-term deal. Kansas City also franchised L’Jarius Sneed, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him traded because of salary cap concerns. Re-signing Drue Tranquill to a relatively affordable deal is a nice piece of work by general manager Brett Veach. Kansas City can bump this grade up to an ‘A’ if they can acquire another receiver or two to upgrade a position that struggled with drops last regular season. 

Las Vegas Raiders: B

Key additions: DT Christian Wilkins, QB Gardner Minshew

Key re-signings: Andre James, RB Ameer Abdullah 

Key departures: RB Josh Jacobs, OL Jermaine Eluemunor, CB Amik Roberston

The Raiders have finally found a pass-rush partner for Pro Bowl edge rusher Maxx Crosby in former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. He was one of six defensive tackles to register at least nine sacks last season joining Pro Bowler Justin Madubike (13.0), All-Pro Chris Jones (10.5), Zach Sieler (10.0), Ed Oliver (9.5) and Kobie Turner (9.0). 

Bringing back James was also smart. The 26-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-best center, among those with at least 100 snaps, in the entire league with a 76.3 offensive grade. Las Vegas is clearly starting over at quarterback, and it doesn’t like they have their long-term option in the building at the moment. 

Los Angeles Chargers: C

Key additions: RB Gus Edwards, TE Will Dissly

Key re-signings: Alohi Gilman 

Key departures: RB Austin Ekeler, LB Kenneth Murray, TE Gerald Everett, Keenan Allen 

New Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh has always prioritized have a downhill, smashmouth running game. That’s exactly the kind of running style former Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards possesses, making his acquisition a great scheme fit. Will Dissly could be a younger TE1 for quarterback Justin Herbert if Gerald Everett is not re-signed. 

The Chargers still need to pull a few levers to open up more roster flexibility by moving off of wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen and edge rusher Joey Bosa with the ageless Khalil Mack also likely needing to be shown the door in order to replenish Los Angeles’ roster depth. 

Los Angeles Rams: B+

Key additions: TE Colby Parkinson, G Jonah Jackson, CB Darious Williams  

Key re-signings: WR DeMarcus Robinson, G Kevin Dotson 

Key departures: N/A

The Rams took a flier on Dotson, a 2020 fourth-round pick, in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers a year ago, flipping a 2024 fourth-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick in exchange for Dotson, a 2024 fifth-round pick and a 2025 sixth-round pick. Los Angeles hit the jackpot with this move as Dotson ended up being grade out as PFF’s second-best offensive guard in the entire league with an 86.1 offensive grade behind only Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowler Chris Lindstrom (89.7). No guard was a better run-blocker in 2023 than Dotson as he registered an 88.8 run-blocking grade. Los Angeles doubled down on on their offensive line with former Detroit Lions guard Jonah Jackson. The Darious Williams reunion is a feel-good story. Williams tied his career high in interceptions with four and only allowed two passing touchdowns in 2023. As a result he earned a 85.3 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus, the fourth-highest in the entire NFL, trailing only Pro Bowler Jaylon Johnson (91.0), All-Pro Sauce Gardner (90.8) and All-Pro DaRon Bland (89.9). 

Miami Dolphins: B-

Key additions: S Jordan Poyer, DE Shaq Barrett, TE Jonnu Smith, LB Anthony Walker, C Aaron Brewer, LB Jordyn Brooks, CN Kendall Fuller

Key re-signings: CB NIk Needham, OL Robert Jones

Key departures: G Robert Hunt, DT Christian Wilkins, S Brandon Jones, LB Andrew Van Ginkel, LB Jerome Baker (released), DE Emmanuel Ogbah (released)

The Dolphins evened out their list of additions and departures on Tuesday with the signings of two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Shaq Barrett and Pro Bowl safety Jordan Poyer. Poyer is an especially nice pickup because it also weakens their AFC East rival, the Bills. New center Aaron Brewer’s PFF run-blocking grade of 78.7 is tied for the sixth-best in the NFL, which is great. However, he has a lot of room to grow as a pass-blocker. Brewer allowed 68 quarterback pressures in 2023, the most by any center in the entire league last season. De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert have to be fired up about his arrival, but Brewer is certainly destined to be run through head coach Mike McDaniel’s pass-blocking drills all training camp long. Brooks, the 27th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, will replace some of the speed lost off of Miami’s defense this offseason.

Minnesota Vikings: C-

Key additions: RB Aaron Jones, QB Sam Darnold, DE Jonathan Greenard, LB Blake Cashman, LB Andrew Van Ginkel, RB Aaron Jones, K John Parker Romo

Key re-signings: TE Johnny Mundt, OT David Quessenberry, WR Brandon Powell 

Key departures: QB Kirk Cousins, DE Marcus Davenport, DE Danielle Hunter, LB Jordan Hicks

It’s panic time in the Twin Cities: the Vikings are entering quarterback purgatory and are currently looking at castoff Sam Darnold as their starting quarterback ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft after Cousins deserted them for the Falcons and warmer weather. Scary times. They need to trade all the way up into the top three or hope J.J. McCarthy falls to them with the 11th overall pick. Otherwise, Justin Jefferson might get irritable and demand a trade. Darnold has an established NFL track record of being a mediocre quarterback. At least they were fortunate enough to capitalize on former Packers Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones’ spite and add him on a one-year deal. Jones follows in Brett Favre’s footsteps as someone who embodied what it meant to be a Packer before joining the Vikings out of spite when Green Bay showed them the door. Jones provides a dual-threat ability out of the backfield not seen in Minnesota since Dalvin Cook’s prime. Jonathan Greenard (12.5 sacks in 2023, led team; his 22% quarterback pressure ranked as the sixth-best among edge rushers in 2023 per ESPN Analytics) acts as a younger replacement for the departing Danielle Hunter. 

New England Patriots: B

Key additions: QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Antonio Gibson, TE Austin Hooper, LB Sione Takitaki, OT Chukwuma Okorafor

Key re-signings: S Kyler Dugger, OL Mike Onwenu, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, WR Jalen Reagor, LB Anfernee Jennings, LB Josh Uche, OL Tyrone Wheatley Jr., LB Christian Elliss

Key departures: QB Mac Jones (traded to Jaguars), TE Mike Gesicki, LB Mack Wilson, ST Matthew Slater (retired)

The New England Patriots have been active through the first two days of free agency, but none of their signings have broken the bank. That positions them well for the next wave of free agency when the new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET as that is when all teams have to be under the salary cap. Typically, the league sees a few high profile players on sizeable deals hit the market who stay have some nice football left in them (stares over at the Los Angeles Chargers). Getting Kyle Dugger back on the transition tag was a nice piece of business given how the safety positional market has unfolded. Ditto for bringing journeyman quarterback Jacoby Brissett back to his first NFL home to be a mentor for either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, one of the two quarterbacks who will be the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Running back Antonio Gibson has always felt like some who has an extra gear to their game, and perhaps he finds it in New England after languishing with the Commanders the last few years. 

New Orleans Saints: D

Key departures: CB Lonnie Johnson, QB Jameis Winston, DT Malcolm Roach

The Saints’ burning desire to continue restructuring almost every contract on their books to chase NFC South contention is severely limiting their ability to do anything in free agency besides re-sign some of their own players. New Orleans has to change this strategy soon, otherwise they will continue to be doomed to competing for division titles and losing in the first round of the postseason. Wilson provides some wide receiver depth after the Saints released Michael Thomas.

New York Giants: B

Key additions: DE Brian Burns (acquired via trade from Carolina Panthers), RB Devin Singletary, G Jon Runyan Jr., OL Jermaine Eluemunor, QB Drew Lock, WR Isaiah McKenzie 

Key re-signings: N/A

Key departures: QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Saquon Barkley, S Xavier McKinney, DL A’Shawn Robinson

The Giants had a mixed bag to begin free agency. On the plus side, they acquired and locked down one of the most dynamic pass rushers in football. Burns is one of 10 players in the NFL to have 45 or more sacks, 10 or more passes defended and five or more forced fumbles since he entered the NFL in 2019. Having him alongside Kayvon Thibodeaux and All-Pro Dexter Lawrence gives New York one of the best defensive fronts in the entire league.  Losing Barkley is unfortunate, but the Giants were better off not paying a RB big money. If they were close to contention, maybe, but they still most certainly are not given their quarterback uncertainty. The loss of Xavier McKinney is a big deal. He is the best safety in coverage in the entire NFL, and he is still just 24. It was surprising to not see the Giants fight harder to keep him. 

New York Jets: D+

Key additions: QB Tyrod Taylor, OL John Simpson, CB Isaiah Oliver

Key re-signings: Greg Zuerlein, P Thomas Morstead 

Key departures: DE Bryce Huff 

Only Dallas Cowboys All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons (21.8%) had a higher quarterback pressure rate than Bryce Huff (21.3%) in 2023. New York letting a 25-year-old Huff out of the building is a travesty. Elite pass-rushers aren’t easy to come by, which is why most of them never hit the free agency market at all. The Jets did receive offensive reinforcements to their backup quarterback spot with Tyrod Taylor coming over from down the hall with the Giants and offensive line, their biggest need on the entire team. Aaron Rodgers’ offensive line has to be better in 2023 — their 13 offensive line starting combinations were the most in the NFL while they surrendered 63 sacks, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL in 2023. John Simpson started all 19 games played for the Ravens in 2023. That’s exactly the kind of durability up front New York is thirsting for. New York further solidified its line with the signing of Smith, who enjoyed a stellar run with the Cowboys. 

Philadelphia Eagles: A

Key additions: RB Saquon Barkley, DE Bryce Huff, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, LB Devin White, QB Kenny Pickett (via a trade with Steelers) 

Key re-signings: Landon Dickerson, P Braden Mann, LS Rick Lovato, Jake Elliott 

Key departures: RB D’Andre Swift, C Jason Kelce (retired), DT Fletcher Cox (retired), S Kevin Byard, QB Marcus Mariota, LB Nicholas Morrow

General manager Howie Roseman has done it again. Thanks to the retirements of Cox and Kelce plus D’Andre Swift hitting free agency, he had enough money to sign both Bryce Huff and Saquon Barkley. Huff will elevate the Eagles’ pass-rush immediately while Barkley can provide quarterback Jalen Hurts a nice checkdown option and a run-pass option running mate defenses will fear. While Philly doesn’t typically pay running backs, they are contenders, so the investment is understandable. The back end of their secondary improved tremendously by them replacing Kevin Byard, who doesn’t look the same on the wrong side of 30, with the returning C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Elliott will stay in Philadelphia for the long haul after reportedly matching Justin Tucker as the highest-paid kicker in NFL history. White isn’t a major upgrade at linebacker, but perhaps the Eagles can get something out of his athleticism. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: A

Key additions: QB Russell Wilson, LB Patrick Queen, CB Donte Jackson (acquired via trade with Panthers), WR Van Jefferson, QB Justin Fields 

Key re-signings: DB Miles Killebrew 

Key departures: QB Mitchell Trubisky, RT Chukwuma Okorafor, WR Diontae Johnson (traded to Panthers), QB Kenny Pickett (traded to Eagles) 

The Steelers are going all-in this offseason. They completely re-built their quarterback room and will spend just $4.5 million in the process. Pittsburgh will go forward with Russell Wilson as its QB1 after trading Pickett. The Steelers got valuable insurance behind Wilson in Fields, who was had for a 2025 sixth-round pick that will turn into a fourth-rounder if Fields plays 51% of the team’s snaps this season,. 

Pittsburgh solidified the middle of their defense by signing Queen, a Pro Bowler during his final season in Baltimore. The Steelers’ next move might be at receiver; they’re slated to meet with Mike Williams this week. 

San Francisco 49ers: B

Key additions: DE Leonard Floyd, DE Yetur Gross-Matos, DT Jordan Elliott, DT Maliek Collins

Key re-signings: OT Colton McKivitz, QB Brandon Allen, S George Odum

Key departures: QB Sam Darnold, CB Isaiah Oliver, DE Clelin Ferrell

The 49ers were rumored to be releasing veteran defensive tackle Arik Armstead, but they haven’t officially done it. In the meantime, they have allocated resources to beef up their defensive line, signing both Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos. Floyd is in elite company as one of only three players with at least nine sacks in each of the last three seasons along with 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett and Pro Bowler Haason Reddick. Gross-Matos, a former second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, didn’t play up to his pedigree in Charlotte, but perhaps San Francisco can help unlock him like they did Charles Omenihu. Collins also adds depth on the defensive line. Kendricks should help strengthen what is already a solid 49ers defense. 

Seattle Seahawks: B+

Key additions: DB Rayshawn Jenkins, QB Sam Howell, LB Jerome Baker 

Key re-signings: TE Noah Fant, DE Leonard Williams 

Key departures: TE Will Dissly, TE Colby Parkinson, G Damien Lewis, LB Jordyn Brooks, QB Drew Lock, RB DeeJay Dallas

The Seahawks retained two key contributors on both sides of the ball in Fant and Williams. Seattle desperately needed to keep Williams. They sent a 2024 second-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick across the country to the Giants in exchange for his services. Seattle desperately needed more push up front, and Williams provided decent help. His 12.1% quarterback pressure rate ranked as the second-most on the team behind Boye Mafe’s 13.8% rate among those with at least 100 pass rush snaps. Fant was a must re-sign also after the Seahawks let Dissly and Parkinson walk. They also found a backup to replace Drew Lock in Sam Howell. Seattle currently has $44.9 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, meaning they are well-positioned to continue to spend this offseason in Year 1 under new head coach Mike Macdonald. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+

Key additions: N/A

Key re-signings: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Mike Evans, S Antoine Winfield Jr., K Chase McLaughlin, LB Lavonte David, DL Greg Gaines

Key departures: Ryan Jensen (retired), CB Carlton Davis (traded to Detroit Lions), LB Shaq Barrett, LB Devin White

The band is back together in Tampa Bay! The reigning NFC South champions re-signed their two most important players, quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Mike Evans. Mayfield is coming off of the best year of his career with career-highs in completion percentage (64.3%), passing touchdowns (28) and passing yards (4,044). Evans co-led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in is first season with Mayfield in 2023. This duo will now be together for at least the next two seasons as the Buccaneers aim to be annual NFC playoff participants going forward. Losing Shaq Barrett wasn’t great, but most teams would take bringing back Lavonte David over Barrett at this stage of their careers. 

Tennessee Titans: B+

Key additions: RB Tony Pollard, C Lloyd Cushenberry, LB Kenneth Murray, CB Chidobe Awuzie, WR Calvin Ridley, QB Mason Rudolph 

Key re-signings: LS Morgan Cox  

Key departures: C Aaron Brewer, DL Denico Autry, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, RB Derrick Henry

The Titans had a clear need at running back with Derrick Henry now with the Baltimore Ravens, so they signed a Tennessee native in 26-year-old running back Tony Pollard. He slogged through a tough 2023 in which he was still battling the lingering effects from a fibula injury in the 2022 postseason against the San Francisco 49ers. Over a year fully removed from that incident, he should be closer to his 5.9 yards per touch self from 2022 when he led the NFL in that metric. Paving the way for Pollard will be PFF’s 10th-highest graded center Lloyd Cushenberry (74.7 offensive grade). The former Denver Bronco excels in pass protection as his 76.4 PFF pass-blocking grade is the third-best among centers in the entire league, trailing only Chiefs Pro Bowler Creed Humphrey (78.6) and Colts Pro Bowler Ryan Kelly (78.3). Denver let him walk, and he procured a top of the market contract. Awuzie and Murray will be Day 1 starters along the Titans defense, a nice haul for a rebuilding squad. 

Ridley gives the Titans a proven No. 1 wideout who should still have some prime years left in him. Rudolph, who went 3-0 as Pittsburgh’s starter last season, should provide good competition for Will Levis this summer. 

Washington Commanders: B+

Key additions: RB Austin Ekeler, C Tyler Biadasz, DE Dorance Armstrong, TE Zach Ertz, OL Nick Allegretti, LB Frankie Luvu, K Brandon McManus, QB Marcus Mariota, DE Clelin Ferrell, S Jeremy Chinn, K Brandon McManus, LS Tyler Ott, LB Bobby Wagner 

Key re-signings: N/A

Key departures: QB Jacoby Brissett, QB Sam Howell, RB Antonio Gibson, CB Kendall Fuller, WR Curtis Samuel 

The Commanders entered free agency with the most cap space in the NFL, and they acted like it on the first two days of the legal tampering period, coming to terms with 12 players. Two of them were also coached by new Washington head coach Dan Quinn in Dallas when Quinn was the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator: center Tyler Biadasz and defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong. Both will be immediate starters. Washington’s backfield pecking order will likely change as former Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, whose 69 scrimmage touchdowns are the most in the NFL since 2021, will now split time with Brian Robinson Jr. Ertz, a three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, is the type of veteran leader the Commanders will want their new quarterback, the second overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, exposed to right away. Linebacker Frankie Luvu might be the best pickup of them all: he led all linebackers in completion percentage allowed (56.4%) as the nearest defender last season among those with at least 25 targets as the nearest defender, per Next Gen Stats. Safety Jeremy Chinn will provide a lift around the line of scrimmage against the run and on the back end of the defense in the passing. Bobby Wagner proved last year that he is still capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level. 

Washington was the league’s worst scoring defense (30.5 points per game) and total defense (388.9 total yards per game) while allowing the most passing touchdowns (39) and  the highest passer rating (105.7). Luvu and Chinn will play a big role in the team’s needed defensive turnaround. 

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