NFL free agency grades: Analyzing the biggest moves of the new league year

0:47 | NFL
DeSean Jackson signing makes Buccaneers offense almost unstoppable
Wednesday March 8th, 2017

By the end of the first day of the NFL’s new year, several of the biggest names available were already off the market. Among the early highlights: the Bears cut Jay Cutler and signed Mike Glennon to be their new starting QB on a three-year contract; the Eagles inked Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal and Torrey Smith to a three-year deal to upgrade their receiving corps; and the Jaguars pulled in arguably the top DB available, signing A.J. Bouye. The market didn’t let up from there, with Terrelle Pryor finding a home in Washington and the Julius Peppers returning home to Carolina.

As the free agency signings continue to roll in, we’re handing out grades for the biggest moves and breaking down what they mean for the teams involved below.

  •  
    DT Dontari Poe signs with Falcons

    GRADE: A–

    The Falcons’ options up front will allow coach Dan Quinn to be creative with his personnel, mixing and matching as the situation demands. Poe was a three-down player in Kansas City, to the point that he rarely came off the field. He should have more of a chance to catch his breath with the Falcons. Read More.

  •  
    ILB Dont'a Hightower re-signs with Patriots

    GRADE: A–

    Once again, the Jets tried hard, but the Patriots won—this time, in signing Hightower. The inside linebacker has struggled with injuries the past few seasons, but the Patriots left room to reconsider options in a few years. Read More.

  •  
    RB Eddie Lacy signs with Seahawks

    GRADE: B+

    Seattle has the makings of a terrific fit for Lacy, provided he stays healthy and in shape. All of the Seahawks’ incumbent backs have shown promise in spurts, but last season they were unable to replace the physical presence Seattle lost when Marshawn Lynch retired. Read More.

  •  
    G T.J. Lang signs with Lions

    GRADE: A–

    Alongside Rick Wagner, Lang is brought in to Detroit to help boost a Detroit offense that ranked 30th in rushing last season.

  •  
    TE Martellus Bennett signs with Packers

    GRADE: A

    TE Jared Cook was good for the Packers last year, but expect Martellus Bennett to be even better. Read more.

  •  
    WR Terrelle Pryor signs with Redskins

    GRADE: A–

    The Redskins needed a move like this to keep their offense from fading next season. They lost both DeSean Jackson (to Tampa Bay) and Pierre Garcon (to San Francisco) this week. That duo combined for 2,046 yards last season. Read more.

  •  
    LB Lawrence Timmons signs with Dolphins

    GRADE: B

    The veteran LB, who has spent the entirety of his 10-year NFL career with the Steelers, is heading to Miami after securing a two-year, $12 million deal. Timmons recorded 114 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions last season, and his presence will likely force Kiko Alonso out to the weak side on the Dolphins' D.

  •  
    CB Prince Amukamara signs with Bears

    GRADE: B-

    The cornerback will play another season on a one-year deal, this time in Chicago. He was an obvious player to be pushed out after the Jaguars signed A.J. Bouye, and he should find plenty of playing time in the Bears' lineup.

  •  
    DE Julius Peppers signs with Panthers

    GRADE: A

    Even as he nears retirement, Peppers still can bring it as a situational pass rusher—he had 7.5 sacks last season and 10.5 in 2015, playing in the Packers' 3–4. (He’ll be moving back into a 4–3 front with Carolina.) The Panthers managed to lock up DE Charles Johnson before he hit free agency, but they could use more help off the edge.

  •  
    CB DJ Hayden signs with Lions

    GRADE: C

    D.J. Hayden never quite put it all together in Oakland, but the Lions will roll the dice on him, handing him a one-year contract.

  •  
    CB Logan Ryan signs with Titans

    GRADE: B

    Logan Ryan's strong play opposite Malcolm Butler helped him land a huge payday in Tennessee. Read more.

  •  
    CB Dre Kirkpatrick re-signs with Bengals

    GRADE: D+

    Dre Kirkpatrick's contract is in line with what Bouye and Gilmore got, but this still isn't the best move for the Bengals.

  •  
    WR Alshon Jeffery signs with Eagles

    GRADE: A–

    If all goes right this year, Jeffery should be the centerpiece of a new-look passing game in Philadelphia. More from Jonathan Jones here.

  •  
    CB A.J Bouye signs with Jaguars

    GRADE: B

    Swiping another big talent from a divisional rival, the Jaguars prove they're serious about solidifying their defense. Read more.

  •  
    G Kevin Zeitler signs with Browns

    GRADE: B+

    The Browns may have a formidable offensive line next season, but it will come at a cost. Zeitler's contract makes him the highest-paid guard in football.


  •  
    WR DeSean Jackson signs with Buccaneers

    GRADE: A

    The Buccaneers now have a speed receiver to take attention away from big man Mike Evans. Jonathan Jones with more on the signing.


  •  
    WR Torrey Smith signs with Eagles

    GRADE: A-

    After suffering through two miserable seasons in San Francisco, Torrey Smith heads to Philadelphia, where he'll become Carson Wentz's latest downfield threat. Read more.

  •  
    CB Stephon Gilmore signs with Patriots

    GRADE: B

    By stealing away the star of a division rival, the Patriots prove just how badly they want to avoid complacency. Read more.

  •  
    QB Mike Glennon signs with Bears

    GRADE: C

    Chicago is banking on Mike Glennon's experience, both as a starter and a backup, hoping the QB can take full ownership of the offense. Read more.

  •  
    WR Kenny Stills re-signs with Dolphins

    GRADE: A

    Adam Gase knew that he wanted to keep the wide receiver, and he made it happen, creating possibly the most dangerous passing attack in Miami in years. Read more.

  •  
    QB Brian Hoyer signs with 49ers

    GRADE: C+

    San Francisco finally has a quarterback! Whether he’ll be the starter in 2017 or serve as a mentor, Brian Hoyer brings much-needed stability to the position. Read more.

  •  
    QB Tyrod Taylor re-signs with Bills

    GRADE: A-

    Taylor is far from the perfect quarterback, but given the tough quarterback market right now, he’ll work in Buffalo. Read more.


  •  
    RT Ricky Wagner signs with Lions

    GRADE: B

    The Lions set up Matthew Stafford for success in 2017 by locking down the shakiest end of their offensive line. Read more.

  •  
    WR Pierre Garçon signs with 49ers

    GRADE: B-

    49ers new coach Kyle Shanahan knows what he wants, and one of those things was receiver Pierre Garçon. Read more.


  •  
    WR Brandon Marshall signs with the Giants

    GRADE: A-

    Inking a two-year, $12 million deal with New York, the veteran joins a wide receiver group that includes Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Read more.

  •  
    TE Jack Doyle re-signs with Colts

    GRADE: B+

    After Doyle's breakthrough season last year, the Colts rewarded their tight end with a new deal. Read more.

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