Aug. 01, 1996
Aug. 01, 1996

Table of Contents
Aug. 1, 1996

Scouting Reports
1996 NFL Schedules


It's a risky proposition to try to judge how each of the NFL
teams has fared with free agency after just four years of the
current system. But it's certainly no riskier than the system
itself, this veritable lottery of player movement. So
treacherous is the game of football free agency, in fact, that a
very logical case can be made for simply leaving it alone.

This is an article from the Aug. 1, 1996 issue

We take you back to the months following the 1992 season, just
before implementation of the new system. Look at two teams:
Pittsburgh, 11-5, was trounced at home 24-3 by Buffalo in the
divisional playoff round; Washington, 9-7 and a year removed
from its last Super Bowl win, lost narrowly at San Francisco in
the divisional playoffs, 20-13.

Pittsburgh is shaky offensively, talented defensively, and
young. Washington is relatively old; Charles Mann and Wilber
Marshall lead a declining defense, and the pass-catching trio of
Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders and Art Monk averages 32 years of age.

So free agency arrives, and Redskins management tries to spackle
and patch the team together for another playoff run. Wideout Tim
McGee is brought in from Cincinnati, linebacker Carl Banks from
the Giants and defensive ends Al Noga from the Vikings and Rick
Graf from Miami--for contracts totaling $17.25 million. For
three free agency seasons, until 1996, Washington continues to
"build" with pricey veterans. The Redskins' record since the
dawn of football freedom: 13-35.

Pittsburgh decides to rely on its player-development system. The
Steelers lose two starters--linebacker Hardy Nickerson and
tackle Tunch Ilkin--to free agency in 1993 and replace them with
in-house products: linebacker Chad Brown and tackle Leon Searcy.
Over four years, 15 Pittsburgh starters are set free by the
system, and the Steelers let every one of them go. But by
building from within and adding less-expensive free agents, they
make it to Super Bowl XXX. The Steelers' record since the dawn
of football freedom: 32-16.

As it is in baseball, the moral of free agency in the NFL seems
to be that the more you spend and the more aggressive you are,
the more disappointed you become. Which is why there is not much
alarm in the hallways of the Steelers' offices at Three Rivers
Stadium, even after losing quarterback Neil O'Donnell, Searcy
and linebacker Kevin Greene.

"We went to the Super Bowl last year after Rod Woodson got
hurt," director of football operations Tom Donahoe says, "and
there's no reason why we can't go back this year. Certainly our
losses have hurt our depth, but the thing that's been forgotten
in this frenzy about all these free agents is that football's a
team game, and you can survive one or two losses if you upgrade
your roster year-round."

The Bears, who earned the highest grade in our ratings, are
proof of that. Chicago has suffered negligible losses while
adding solid players such as tackle Andy Heck, quarterback Erik
Kramer and safety Marty Carter. But the Bears--like every
team--have been far from perfect (which is why no club earned a
grade of A+): Chicago did overpay to sign receiver Michael
Timpson ($1.5 million a year) and to re-sign defensive end
Alonzo Spellman ($3 million per).

But those mistakes pale in comparison to what has gone on for
the past four years in Miami, where, among other disasters, the
Dolphins lost Bryan Cox and cornerback Troy Vincent and gave
$15.5 million for six years to tight end Eric Green, who has
hardly played like a $2.6 million man. But then, unfulfilled
potential in a free agent is a common story.

"With free agency, you never know," Pittsburgh's Donahoe says.
"That's why, in this organization, we draw the line." If the
Steelers win in double digits again this year, their approach
will become the NFL blueprint for this maddeningly unscientific


Since the current system was instituted in 1992, some NFL teams
have clearly played the free agency game better than others.
Below, we grade each team's performance in the four years of the
open market (except, of course, for Carolina and Jacksonville,
which didn't begin acquiring players until 1994) based on whom
the club let go, whom it picked up, whom it retained and what
those players cost. Included is each club's regular-season
record in the free agency era, the number of free agents it
signed, set free and re-signed (through June 13, including only
those players who signed with a team and remained on that roster
through the end of the signing period) and its most important
losses and gains.

Arizona Cardinals Grade: D
Record: 19-29 Signed: 21; Set Free: 28; Re-signed: 28

Lost: S Tim McDonald, DT Reuben Davis, G Lance Smith,
CB Robert Massey, QB Chris Chandler, LB Ken Harvey, TE Walter
Reeves, WR Randal Hill, T Larry Tharpe, C Ed Cunningham

Found: QB Steve Beuerlein, LB Seth Joyner, DE Clyde Simmons, G
Duval Love, T Lomas Brown, QB Boomer Esiason

Key stat: Simmons and Joyner have combined for just 24 sacks in
their 32 games with the Cards.

The Skinny: The great ex-Eagle experiment failed, with coach
Buddy Ryan bringing in every warm former Philly body he could
find. But the move that really hurt? Letting Harvey go to

Atlanta Falcons Grade: C
Record: 22-26 Signed: 24; Set Free: 14; Re-signed: 38

Lost: G Bill Fralic, DE Oliver Barnett, CB Deion Sanders, QB
Chris Miller, WR Michael Haynes, T Chris Hinton, WR Andre Rison,
RB Erric Pegram, DE Chris Doleman

Found: DT Pierce Holt, DT Jumpy Geathers, QB Bobby Hebert,
CB D.J. Johnson, WR Terance Mathis, WR J.J. Birden, LB Cornelius
Bennett, T Antone Davis

Key stat: Bennett is fading: He had a career-low two sacks in '95.

The Skinny: The Holt signing failed (58 tackles, one sack over
the last two years) because of his bad knees, and that crippled
the Falcons' defense. Great reclamation project with Mathis,

Baltimore Ravens Grade: C+
Record: 23-25 Signed: 14; Set Free: 19; Re-signed: 26

Lost: LB Clay Matthews, LB Mike Johnson, DT James Jones, WR
Keenan McCardell, RB Tommy Vardell

Found: QB Vinny Testaverde, CB Don Griffin, TE Walter Reeves, WR
Andre Rison

Key stat: Rison made $5.578 million in '95; 68 NFL players
caught more balls.

The Skinny: Cleveland made a '94 playoff run by wisely buying
five contributing players for what it would have taken to sign
Reggie White. But the idiocy of Rison's contract and his lack of
production cancel that out.

Buffalo Bills Grade: B-
Record: 29-19 Signed: 10; Set Free: 24; Re-signed: 26

Lost: LB Shane Conlan, LB Carlton Bailey, T Will Wolford, T
Howard Ballard, CB Nate Odomes, LB Darryl Talley, WR Don Beebe,
LB Marvcus Patton, LB Cornelius Bennett, WR Bill Brooks ('96)

Found: WR Bill Brooks ('93), LB Bryce Paup, LB Chris Spielman,
WR Quinn Early

Key stat: At $2.6 mil a year, Paup is best big-buck free agent
in history.

The Skinny: Buffalo hasn't recovered from the departures of
Wolford and Ballard, two great cornerstone tackles, but the
declining Bennett is no great loss. The war-torn Spielman is a
big risk at $8 million for four years.

Carolina Panthers Grade: B
Record: 7-9 Signed: 24; Set Free: 3; Re-signed: 15

Lost: No significant losses.

Found: LB Darion Conner, K John Kasay, LB Lamar Lathon,
LB Sam Mills, CB Eric Davis, LB Kevin Greene, T Greg Skrepenak,
LB Duane Bickett, QB Steve Beuerlein

Key stat: At 36, Mills had career highs in sacks (4.5), forced
fumbles (6) and interceptions (5).

The Skinny: The most successful expansion team of the modern era
has free agency to thank. Lathon has only himself to blame if he
doesn't become a premier sacker; the Panthers bring him from
everywhere, at all times.

Chicago Bears Grade: A
Record: 25-23 Signed: 16; Set Free: 16; Re-signed: 32

Lost: RB Brad Muster, DE Richard Dent, P Chris Gardocki, S Shaun
Gayle, WR Jeff Graham, T Troy Auzenne, G Jay Leeuwenburg, QB
Steve Walsh

Found: LB Joe Cain, RB Lewis Tillman, QB Erik Kramer, T Andy
Heck, WR Michael Timpson, S Marty Carter, C Ed Cunningham, LB
Bryan Cox

Key stat: Heck led all left tackles, with zero sacks allowed in

The Skinny: The Bears have gained a terrific left tackle (Heck),
a competent QB (Kramer), their secondary's leading tackler
(Carter) and a spiritual leader on defense (Cox) while losing no

Cincinnati Bengals Grade: C
Record: 13-35 Signed: 18; Set Free: 12; Re-signed: 22

Lost: WR Tim McGee, CB Eric Thomas, TE Jim Riggs, LB Alfred
Williams, S Darryl Williams

Found: QB Jay Schroeder, LB Kanavis McGhee, G Darrick Brilz, T
Eric Moore, S Louis Oliver, RB Eric Bieniemy, CB Ashley Ambrose

Key stat: In the last three seasons Bengals free agent signees
have averaged fewer than five starts per year.

The Skinny: Nothing lost, nothing gained, except that Brilz has
been a good fireman for one of the worst lines in the league,
and Williams was one of Cincinnati's five best defensive players.

Dallas Cowboys Grade: B+
Record: 36-12 Signed: 7; Set Free: 26; Re-signed: 24

Lost: QB Steve Beuerlein, LB Ken Norton, DT Tony Casillas, G
Kevin Gogan, DT Jimmie Jones, WR Alvin Harper, C Mark Stepnoski,
S James Washington, S Kenny Gant, DT Russell Maryland, LB Dixon
Edwards, LB Robert Jones, CB Larry Brown

Found: G Derek Kennard, C Ray Donaldson, CB Deion Sanders, LB
Fred Strickland, LB Broderick Thomas

Key stat: Sanders gained 34 rushing/receiving yards in '95, 900
fewer than he will in '96.

The Skinny: VP Stephen Jones bulled through team-friendly new
contracts with several vets, including safety Darren Woodson.

Denver Broncos Grade: D
Record: 24-24 Signed: 30; Set Free: 16; Re-signed: 16

Lost: LB Michael Brooks, T Kirk Scrafford, NT Ted Washington,
G Dave Widell

Found: RB Rod Bernstine, G Brian Habib, T Don Maggs, CB Ray
Crockett, WR Anthony Miller, LB Alfred Williams, LB Bill
Romanowski, CB Toi Cook, WR Mike Sherrard

Key stat: Williams for $1.8 million a year? He had 4 1/2 sacks
for the Niners last year.

The Skinny: A classic case of how not to do free agency. So far
the Broncos have signed an NFL-high 30 free agents (and
counting) in four off-seasons, yet they're stuck in mediocrity.

Detroit Lions Grade: C
Record: 29-19 Signed: 22; Set Free: 23; Re-signed: 28

Lost: QB Erik Kramer, CB Ray Crockett, LB Dennis Gibson,
DE Kelvin Pritchett, T Lomas Brown, LB Chris Spielman

Found: G Dave Lutz, LB Mike Johnson, CB Robert Massey, QB Scott
Mitchell, T Zefross Moss, DT Henry Thomas, LB Michael Brooks, T
Ray Roberts

Key stat: Who'll replace Spielman's average of 142 tackles a year?

The Skinny: The grade will become a B if Mitchell grabs hold of
the Lions, leads them and gets the full respect of his
teammates, which hasn't happened yet. Much heart is gone with
Brown and Spielman to Arizona and Buffalo, respectively.

Green Bay Packers Grade: C+
Record: 29-19 Signed: 14; Set Free: 21; Re-signed: 21

Lost: S Chuck Cecil, TE Jackie Harris, LB Tony Bennett, LB Bryce
Paup, TE Ed West, QB Ty Detmer, LB Fred Strickland, WR Charles
Jordan, NT John Jurkovic

Found: G Harry Galbreath, DE Reggie White, DE Sean Jones,
DT Santana Dotson

Key stat: Bennett and Paup outsacked White and Jones 28-21 in '95.

The Skinny: Amazing, really, that Green Bay has survived the
losses of three great players--Harris, Bennett and Paup--and
become a Super Bowl contender. White helps, but this is the last
year of his contract, and the Pack must bridge a large salary
gap to keep him for '97.

Houston Oilers Grade: C-
Record: 21-27 Signed: 13; Set Free: 14; Re-signed: 20

Lost: T Don Maggs, DE William Fuller, DE Sean Jones, RB Lorenzo
White, LB Lamar Lathon, LB Eddie Robinson

Found: QB Chris Chandler, KR-WR Mel Gray, C Mark Stepnoski, RB
Ronnie Harmon, WR Willie Davis

Key stat: Pro Bowl-caliber front-seven players lost: four.
Pro Bowl-caliber front-seven players found: zero.

The Skinny: Free agency wrecked the Oilers' pass rush, and
they've never recovered. Fuller and Jones combined for 22 sacks
elsewhere in '95; Houston's leaders, Henry Ford and Anthony
Cook, combined for nine.

Indianapolis Colts Grade: C
Record: 21-27 Signed: 12; Set Free: 14; Re-signed: 18

Lost: WR Bill Brooks, T Zefross Moss, P Rohn Stark, T Will
Wolford ('96), CB Ashley Ambrose

Found: T Will Wolford ('93), C Kirk Lowdermilk, LB Tony Bennett,
P Chris Gardocki, T Troy Auzenne, G Jay Leeuwenburg
Key stat: Bennett, a poor man's Bryce Paup, has had 19 1/2 sacks
in two years with the Colts.

The Skinny: The Jaguars put Colts boss Bill Tobin in a tough
spot, signing good but not great linebacker Quentin Coryatt to a

$3.6-million-a-year offer sheet. The Colts matched, crippling
their future cap spending.

Jacksonville Jaguars Grade: B
Record: 4-12 Signed: 16; Set Free: 3; Re-signed: 9

Lost: S Darren Carrington

Found: DE Jeff Lageman, DE Kelvin Pritchett, WR Keenan
McCardell, LB Eddie Robinson, T Leon Searcy, NT John Jurkovic

Key stat: The Jaguars had 13 interceptions last year. Corners
Aeneas Williams and Todd Lyght, both of whom Jacksonville
pursued but failed to sign, combined for 10.

The Skinny: The Jags did get two of this summer's 10 best free
agents in Searcy and the underrated Robinson. But they blew the
Lyght offer sheet--and cost themselves the cornerback they so
badly needed--by making it too easy for the Rams to re-sign him.

Kansas City Chiefs Grade: B
Record: 33-15 Signed: 14; Set Free: 14; Re-signed: 22

Lost: G Dave Lutz, CB Albert Lewis, LB Lonnie Marts, WR J.J.
Birden, DE Darren Mickell, WR Willie Davis

Found: RB Marcus Allen, P Louie Aguiar, DB Mark Collins,
CB James Hasty

Key stat: Allen's three-year K.C. rushing averages: 788 yards,
eight touchdowns.

The Skinny: You don't need to spend millions for contributing
players. The Chiefs sacrificed Birden from a weak receiving
corps but revamped their secondary with Collins and Hasty and
their running game with Allen.

Miami Dolphins Grade: F
Record: 28-20 Signed: 19; Set Free: 20; Re-signed: 21

Lost: G Harry Galbreath, QB Scott Mitchell, S Louis Oliver, C
Jeff Uhlenhake, WR Irving Fryar, DE Marco Coleman, LB Bryan Cox,
CB Troy Vincent

Found: RB Keith Byars, T Ron Heller, S Gene Atkins, TE Eric
Green, WR Randal Hill, WR Fred Barnett, WR Charles Jordan

Key stat: The Fish are hooked to the salary-dragging Green
through 2000.

The Skinny: The last year of the Don Shula era left an ugly free
agent legacy that will take years to overcome and cost the '96
team valuable defenders Cox and Vincent.

Minnesota Vikings Grade: C-
Record: 27-21 Signed: 19; Set Free: 21; Re-signed: 24

Lost: G Brian Habib, C Kirk Lowdermilk, DE Al Noga, LB Fred
Strickland ('94), G Todd Kalis, DE Robert Harris, DT Henry
Thomas, CB Anthony Parker, S Todd Scott

Found: LB Fred Strickland ('93), T Chris Hinton, LB Dixon Edwards

Key stat: Thomas had a career-high 10 1/2 sacks for the Lions
last season.

The Skinny: The Vikes have been poor recruiters, persuading only
one big-time player, Hinton, to come north. But Eagles coach Ray
Rhodes says he thinks Edwards will prove to be the most
significant player Dallas has lost in free agency.

New England Patriots Grade: D
Record: 21-27 Signed: 27; Set Free: 9; Re-signed: 27

Lost: WR Michael Timpson, FB Kevin Turner

Found: S Myron Guyton, G Bob Kratch, CB Ricky Reynolds,
RB Dave Meggett, CB Willie Clay, WR Shawn Jefferson, T Larry

Key stat: The $9 million Meggett's longest gain in 112 plays
from scrimmage: 25 yards.

The Skinny: Bill Parcells has relied on old Giants to fortify
the Pats, but Meggett, Guyton, cornerback-special-teamer Reyna
Thompson and defensive end John Washington have let him down.
Jefferson is a false hope.

New Orleans Saints Grade: C-
Record: 22-26 Signed: 14; Set Free: 20; Re-signed: 19

Lost: QB Bobby Hebert, T Stan Brock, G Derek Kennard, S Gene
Atkins, P Tommy Barnhardt, K Morten Andersen, LB Darion Conner,
LB Sam Mills, WR Quinn Early, TE Wesley Walls ('96)

Found: TE Wesley Walls ('94), WR Michael Haynes, CB Eric Allen,
LB Rufus Porter, DE Darren Mickell, CB Mark McMillian, T
Clarence Jones, DE Fred Stokes

Key stat: Andersen kicked a record eight 50-plus-yard FGs in '95.

The Skinny: The Saints have learned a hard lesson: Sign your own
valuable players (Andersen, Mills) who still have lots left, and
don't overpay the Hayneses.

New York Giants Grade: D
Record: 25-23 Signed: 10; Set Free: 21; Re-signed: 30

Lost: QB Jeff Hostetler, WR Mark Ingram, DE Leonard Marshall, LB
Carl Banks, CB Mark Collins, S Greg Jackson, S Myron Guyton, G
Bob Kratch, DT Erik Howard, RB Dave Meggett, T Jumbo Elliott, LB
Michael Brooks ('96), WR Mike Sherrard

Found: LB Carlton Bailey, LB Michael Brooks ('93), G Lance
Smith, T Ron Stone

Key stat: Rushing average of re-signed RB Rodney Hampton since
1993: 3.6 yards per carry (Barry Sanders's is 5.1).

The Skinny: The Giants have been one of the most reactive teams
in free agency, and this caused them to overpay ridiculously for

New York Jets Grade: C+
Record: 17-31 Signed: 24; Set Free: 21; Re-signed: 27

Lost: T Irv Eatman, WR Terance Mathis, RB Blair Thomas, T Jeff
Criswell, CB James Hasty, DE Jeff Lageman, G Dwayne White

Found: DT Leonard Marshall, S Ronnie Lott, DE Donald Evans, WR
Art Monk, KR-RB Dexter Carter, DT Erik Howard, S Gary Jones, S
Todd Scott, WR Jeff Graham, T Jumbo Elliott, QB Neil O'Donnell,
G Harry Boatswain

Key stat: New York could have had T Leon Searcy for $500K a year
more than Jumbo.

The Skinny: The Jets look as if they're starting to rebound from
the loss of good players like Mathis, Hasty and Criswell.

Oakland Raiders Grade: B
Record: 27-21 Signed: 17; Set Free: 13; Re-signed: 20

Lost: S Ronnie Lott, QB Jay Schroeder, RB Marcus Allen, TE Ethan
Horton, LB Winston Moss, T Greg Skrepenak

Found: QB Jeff Hostetler, T Gerald Perry, G Kevin Gogan, CB
Albert Lewis, DT Russell Maryland, CB Larry Brown, S Darren
Carrington, S Lorenzo Lynch

Key stat: The Raiders will pay Maryland and Brown $9.4 million
this season.

The Skinny: Al Davis vastly overpaid for the two aforementioned
ex-Cowboys, but he found solid players in Hostetler and Gogan in
what, until this year, was smart free agent spending.

Philadelphia Eagles Grade: B-
Record: 25-23 Signed: 23; Set Free: 32; Re-signed: 16

Lost: DE Reggie White, T Ron Heller, RB Keith Byars, LB Seth
Joyner, DE Clyde Simmons, CB Eric Allen, CB Mark McMillian, LB
Kurt Gouveia, WR Fred Barnett, T Antone Davis

Found: LB Tim Harris, DE William Fuller, S Greg Jackson, RB
Ricky Watters, FB Kevin Turner, DT Rhett Hall, WR Irving Fryar,
QB Ty Detmer, CB Troy Vincent, T Richard Cooper

Key stat: The 28-year-old Detmer has thrown 21 NFL passes.

The Skinny: No team has lost and found more big-time players.
You've got to wonder this: If the defensive stars had liked
ex-coach Rich Kotite, what kind of powerhouse could this team
have been?

Pittsburgh Steelers Grade: B
Record: 32-16 Signed: 14; Set Free: 19; Re-signed: 10

Lost: LB Hardy Nickerson, DE Donald Evans, CB D.J. Johnson, G
Duval Love, TE Eric Green, T Leon Searcy, LB Kevin Greene ('96),
QB Neil O'Donnell, S Gary Jones

Found: LB Kevin Greene ('93), RB Erric Pegram, P Rohn Stark,
T Will Wolford

Key stat: Fifteen Pittsburgh starters have become eligible for
free agency since '93; 15 have left.

The Skinny: The temptation is to say the Steelers haven't caught
on to this free agency thing, but this is a thoughtful
organization. They would have had no cash left to upgrade their
D by signing O'Donnell.

St. Louis Rams Grade: B
Record: 16-32 Signed: 23; Set Free: 21; Re-signed: 20

Lost: LB Fred Strickland, LB Kevin Greene, WR Henry Ellard,
CB Marquez Pope, WR Flipper Anderson, G Tom Newberry,
QB Chris Chandler, T Clarence Jones ('96), DE Fred Stokes ('96)

Found: LB Shane Conlan, DE Fred Stokes ('93), T Clarence Jones
('94), DT Jimmie Jones, G Dwayne White, DE Leslie O'Neal,; LB
Robert Jones, CB Maurice Hurst, QB Steve Walsh

Key stat: Sacks in the '90s: O'Neal, 76 1/2; Reggie White, 76.

The Skinny: What the Rams have now, with the fortification of
their defensive front and a proven pass rusher in O'Neal, is the
ability to scare the 49ers. That hasn't happened for a long time.

San Diego Chargers Grade: C
Record: 28-20 Signed: 15; Set Free: 20; Re-signed: 17

Lost: RB Rod Bernstine, LB Gary Plummer, WR Anthony Miller, S
Stanley Richard, DE Leslie O'Neal, RB Eric Bieniemy, WR Shawn
Jefferson, RB Ronnie Harmon

Found: T Stan Brock, DT Reuben Davis, LB Dennis Gibson, S Shaun
Gayle, LB Kurt Gouveia, DE Marco Coleman

Key stat: O'Neal averaged 11.7 sacks a year in nine seasons with
the Chargers. Coleman won't.

The Skinny: Miller and O'Neal aren't good locker room guys, but
they're premier players. All the key signees are upbeat
personalities, the sort of winners coach Bobby Ross thinks he
can succeed with.

San Francisco 49ers Grade: B
Record: 34-14 Signed: 20; Set Free: 17; Re-signed: 14

Lost: DT Pierce Holt, CB Don Griffin, LB Tim Harris, CB Deion
Sanders ('95), RB Ricky Watters, DT Rhett Hall, KR-RB Dexter
Carter, CB Eric Davis, LB Alfred Williams, CB Toi Cook

Found: S Tim McDonald, LB Ken Norton, LB Gary Plummer,
CB Deion Sanders ('94), CB Marquez Pope, T Kirk Scrafford,
RB Tommy Vardell, DE Chris Doleman, G Ray Brown

Key stat: An NFL-high three free agent imports have made the
Pro Bowl for San Francisco.

The Skinny: Losing Watters hurt, and the 49ers are lucky the
Giants matched the Rodney Hampton offer. But they've filled
other holes.

Seattle Seahawks Grade: D
Record: 20-28 Signed: 14; Set Free: 20; Re-signed: 28

Lost: LB Joe Cain, CB Dwayne Harper, T Andy Heck, FB John L.
Williams, K John Kasay, LB Rod Stephens, LB Rufus Porter, C Ray
Donaldson, T Ray Roberts, LB Duane Bickett

Found: T Howard Ballard, CB Nate Odomes, LB Winston Moss,
S Darryl Williams

Key stat: The Seahawks have lost free agents at nine of the 11
offensive positions.

The Skinny: The offensively feeble Hawks haven't gotten a
useable skill-position player out of free agency in four years,
though they re-signed their own risky wideout, Brian Blades,
this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Grade: C
Record: 18-30 Signed: 22; Set Free: 18; Re-signed: 20

Lost: QB Vinny Testaverde, RB Reggie Cobb, CB Ricky Reynolds,
S Marty Carter, DT Santana Dotson, DT Mark Wheeler

Found: CB Martin Mayhew, LB Hardy Nickerson, LB Lonnie
Marts, TE Jackie Harris, S Kenny Gant, WR Alvin Harper, P Reggie

Key stat: The Bucs need more production from millionaire Harris
than 88 catches in two years.

The Skinny: Harper wasn't the right fit for this team, but the
Bucs bought him anyway, eschewing help where it was needed most,
on the two lines.

Washington Redskins Grade: C
Record: 13-35 Signed: 22; Set Free: 17; Re-signed: 25

Lost: DT Jumpy Geathers, CB Martin Mayhew, DE Fred Stokes, WR
Art Monk, WR Gary Clark, P Reggie Roby, G Raleigh McKenzie, G
Ray Brown

Found: WR Tim McGee, LB Carl Banks, DE Al Noga, WR Henry Ellard,
C John Gesek, LB Ken Harvey, LB Marvcus Patton, S Stanley
Richard, LB Rod Stephens, S James Washington, WR Bill Brooks

Key stat: Ellard's stats in 31 games with Washington: 130
catches, 2,402 yards.

The Skinny: The Skins had the worst early run of free agency in
the league, but Ellard, Harvey and Stephens have changed that.

COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL/ALLSPORT The Bears made a heckuva move with Heck (left), but the Dolphins spent too much green on Green. [Andy Heck]COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO[See caption above--Eric Green]