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2014 NFL free agency grades

The Panthers took a step backward in free agency, while the Vikings excelled. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

2014 NFL free agency grades

The 2014 NFL free agency action has slowed to a crawl. Who has emerged from the NFL's hectic offseason in the best shape? Which teams still have work to do during May's NFL draft? Chris Burke and Doug Farrar break it down, handing out grades to all 32 teams.


• New England Patriots

Grade: B-plus

Best addition: Darrelle Revis, CB

Biggest loss:Aqib Talib, CB

Swapping out one impressive cornerback for another may work out in New England’s favor — Revis is better than Talib when both are healthy. New England also signed Brandon Browner, who should jump into the lineup after his four-game suspension ends to help provide the depth that’s been missing in New England in past years. Keeping Julian Edelman and adding Brandon LaFell will make Tom Brady smile, although LaFell has yet to take the step up from decent to really good. The Patriots also missed some chances to really bolster a receiving corps that includes several unproven pieces. While the impact of Spikes’ departure could linger, the Patriots have last year’s second-round pick, Jamie Collins, ready for a larger role. -- Chris Burke

• Cincinnati Bengals

Grade: D-plus

Best addition: Marshall Newhouse, OT

Biggest loss:Andrew Hawkins, WR

Cincinnati’s approach is not all that different from Baltimore’s, in that the goal is to build from within without breaking the bank in free agency. That’s all well and good, except that while the Ravens kept their losses to a few fringe starters, the Bengals sustained heavy damage. Gone are starting OT Anthony Collins and DE Michael Johnson. Also out the door is intriguing WR Andrew Hawkins, a player Cincinnati easily could have kept with a slight bump in his restricted free-agent tender. The Bengals’ key signing thus far is up for debate (either Newhouse or backup QB Jason Campbell). Far from exciting for Bengals fans. -- CB

• Houston Texans

Grade: D

Best addition: Jerrell Powe, DT

Biggest loss:Antonio Smith, DE

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The Texans underachieved to an egregious degree last season. Much like the Chiefs in 2012, the talent on the roster far surpassed that of a 2-14 record. Yet, that record made this the worst team in football last season. Was a massive rebuild in order? Not yet, especially with the No. 1 pick coming. An effort to improve would have been nice, though.

Instead, all the Texans’ additions thus far have been restricted to backup (hopefully) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, S Kendrick Lewis and DT Jerrell Powe — the latter two allowed by Kansas City to walk without much of a fight. Meanwhile, Earl Mitchell, Antonio Smith and Ben Tate are elsewhere. The Texans were not as bad in 2013 as their record indicated, but as of right now, they’re not as good on paper as they were last season. -- CB

For more AFC free agency grades click here


• Carolina Panthers

Grade: D

Best addition: WR Jerricho Cotchery

Biggest loss: WR Steve Smith

Conclusion: Yes, general manager Dave Gettleman is still dealing with the cap ramifications of the mistakes made by predecessor Marty Hurney, but losing your three best receivers in Smith, Brandon LaFell and Tedd Ginn doesn’t help Cam Newton much. The way Gettleman handled the Smith situation was ham-fisted at best, and he’ll have a lot to answer for if Smith balls out in Baltimore and the Panthers can’t re-stock their receiver corps. Cotchery is a step in the right direction. Placing the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy apparently was a necessary move, but it further hamstrung the front office, and now the Panthers must hit several home runs in the draft. -- Doug Farrar

• Chicago Bears

Grade: B-plus

Best addition: DE Lamarr Houston

Biggest loss: QB Josh McCown

One thing’s for sure — Bears general manager Phil Emery was hell-bent on improving a defensive line that was the team’s primary problem in 2013. Chicago signed the versatile Lamarr Houston, who can play everything from three-tech tackle to stand-up outside linebacker; the underrated Willie Young, who racked up all kinds of hurries in Detroit’s defense; and came through with Wednesday’s agreement with Jared Allen. These moves take the sting out of losing Henry Melton and Julius Peppers to the Cowboys and Packers, respectively, but Josh McCown’s departure to the Buccaneers puts head coach Marc Trestman in a bit of a quandary — the veteran backup was tremendous in relief of Jay Cutler last season, and Trestman must now further expand his reputation as a quarterback whisperer with somebody else. -- DF

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Grade: A

Best addition: CB Alterraun Verner

Biggest loss: FB Erik Lorig

Not only did the Bucs pick up a large number of impact players on cap-friendly deals, but also they lost little of import — as long as Verner isn’t a one-year wonder and doesn’t prove to be vastly inferior to Darrelle Revis, who is now in New England. Other than that, Tampa Bay’s front office scored big. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith is a tough, reliable veteran to add to the offensive line, and replacing Donald Penn with Anthony Collins at left tackle was about as big an upgrade as is possible. Former Bengals end Michael Johnson should be able to do in Tampa for Lovie Smith what Julius Peppers did for Smith in Chicago -- provide serious pass rush outside, and kick inside in certain instances. Former Seahawks tackle Clinton McDonald will add power and pass rush in rotation, and the addition of Josh McCown gives the Bucs intriguing (and much-needed) quarterback options. It’s one thing to win in March and quite another to do so the next February, but the Bucs’ franchise overhaul continues — and it’s been very impressive. -- DF

For more NFC free agency grades click here