Most NFL fans are eager to spend the next month reading countless mock drafts, but, before we officially move, let’s put a bow on free agency by handing out grades for what the 32 teams have done in the past few weeks to improve their respective rosters.
If these grades feel a little late, don’t yell at me. Blame Aaron Rodgers, the Jets and the Packers for failing to execute a trade and holding up the grades. But we’re done waiting, and I’ve got you covered today with free-agency grades for the AFC teams. Matt Verderame will grade the NFC squads Friday, and the two of us also graded all the major moves in real time.
But speaking of star quarterbacks slowing the offseason, let’s start the AFC grades with …
Notable additions: WR Nelson Agholor, CB Trayvon Mullen
Notable departures: S Chuck Clark, OG Ben Powers, TE Josh Oliver
Besides re-signing Mullen, Lamar Jackson’s cousin, the Ravens have had a quiet free agency. Baltimore is an annual playoff contender, but the team has plenty of work to do to improve the roster, and it doesn’t help there’s uncertainty regarding whether Jackson will be on the team come training camp. The Ravens can find wide receiver and offensive line help in the draft, but they have only five picks next month.
Grade: D plus
Notable additions: OG David Edwards, RB Damien Harris, OG Connor McGovern
Notable departures: ILB Tremaine Edmunds, QB Case Keenum, RB Devin Singletary
Despite a tight salary cap, the Bills managed to retain a few key players, such as safety Jordan Poyer, and got an extension done with All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano. The Bills still have one of the best rosters in the league, but they have a few openings to fill, including No. 3 receiver behind Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis.
Grade: C plus
Notable additions: OT Orlando Brown Jr., S Nick Scott, TE Irv Smith Jr.
Notable departures: S Jessie Bates III, S Vonn Bell, TE Hayden Hurst
The surprise signing of Brown was enough to make the Bengals winners in free agency. Brown’s presence will allow Joe Burrow time to push the ball downfield to Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Cincinnati lost both its starting safeties in Bates and Bell, but added a savvy veteran in Scott.
Grade: A minus
Notable additions: WR Elijah Moore, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, S Juan Thornhill, DT Dalvin Tomlinson
Notable departures: QB Jacoby Brissett, RB D’Ernest Johnson, CB Greedy Williams
The Browns improved defensively with the free-agent signings of Tomlinson, Okoronkwo and Thornhill. The arrival of Moore, who was traded by the Jets last week, will give Deshaun Watson a playmaker downfield. Cleveland got better on both sides of the trenches, and the additions will assist the team’s two most important players in Watson and Myles Garrett.
Grade: B plus
Notable additions: DL Zach Allen, OT Mike McGlinchey, OG Ben Powers
Notable departures: RB Chase Edmonds, OG Graham Glasgow, DL Dre’mont Jones
The Broncos upgraded the protection for Russell Wilson and added a few versatile pieces to their offense, with McGlinchey, Powers, running back Samaje Perine and fullback Michael Burton. Denver could have a better balance to the offense, and that would likely help Wilson have a bounce-back season. But the best signing was Allen, who’s stout against the run and a disruptor versus the pass.
Grade: B plus
Notable additions: LB Denzel Perryman, TE Dalton Schultz, DB Jimmie Ward, WR Robert Woods
Notable departures: WR Brandin Cooks, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
The Texans tend to make many small moves to fill the various vacancies on the depth chart, but they finally landed an impact player after they signed Schultz to assist whichever quarterback the team takes with the No. 2 pick. Houston traded Cooks to Dallas, but it has a promising group of wideouts with Nico Collins, John Metchie III and the arrivals of Woods and Noah Brown. The Texans also re-signed left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Houston still needs plenty of work, but it’s finally heading in the right direction.
Notable additions: DE Samson Ebukam, K Matt Gay, QB Gardner Minshew
Notable departures: WR Parris Campbell, CB Stephon Gilmore, ILB Bobby Okereke
The Colts’ next starting quarterback probably won’t arrive until the draft, which is fine, but they haven’t done much to help an incoming rookie. The Colts still have a subpar cast of wideouts, despite the addition of Isaiah McKenzie. Indy’s front seven has plenty of talent with the signing of Ebukam, but the defense has a thin secondary. The Colts did, however, add a clutch kicker in Gay.
Grade: C minus
Notable addition: RB D’Ernest Johnson
Notable departures: OT Jawaan Taylor, DE Arden Key
The Jaguars didn’t add an outside free agent until 10 days after the legal tampering period opened for teams. Johnson, the former Browns running back, will help the rushing attack, but this offense will look mostly the same in 2023, and that’s not a bad thing for the surging Jaguars, which did most of their spending last offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs
Notable additions: DE Charles Omenihu, OT Jawaan Taylor, ILB Drue Tranquill
Notable departures: OT Orlando Brown Jr., WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, OT Andrew Wylie, S Juan Thornhill
The defending champions lost plenty of talent in the past two weeks, but they recovered nicely with the signings of offensive tackle Taylor and Omenihu. They also had value signings with linebacker Tranquill and safety Mike Edwards. Now Kansas City needs to find depth wideout.
Las Vegas Raiders
Notable additions: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, WR Jakobi Meyers, S Marcus Epps, TE Austin Hooper
Notable departures: QB Derek Carr, WR Mack Hollins, TE Darren Waller
The Raiders prioritized adding players who are familiar with coach Josh McDaniels, with the arrivals of Garoppolo and Meyers. Perhaps familiarity will improve the offense, but this defense is still lacking at multiple positions. Other than signing Epps, Las Vegas hasn’t done much defensively.
Grade: C plus
Los Angeles Chargers
Notable addition: ILB Eric Kendricks
Notable departure: ILB Drue Tranquill
The Chargers are rolling out essentially the same roster as last season, and are banking on a few key players staying healthy this season, such as left tackle Rashawn Slater and wide receiver Keenan Allen. The Chargers probably got better at linebacker with the addition of Kendricks, but they’re thin in the secondary and need a speedy offensive playmaker.
Notable additions: ILB David Long Jr., CB Jalen Ramsey, QB Mike White
Notable departure: TE Mike Gesicki
The Dolphins opened free agency by trading for Ramsey, and they signed Long, giving defensive coordinator Vic Fangio two key pieces to an already talented defense. Miami returned the running back rotation of Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert and Myles Gaskin, and added a quality backup quarterback in White in case Tua Tagovailoa struggles to stay healthy again.
New England Patriots
Notable additions: TE Mike Gesicki, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, RB James Robinson
Notable departures: WR Nelson Agholor, RB Damien Harris, TE Jonnu Smith
The Patriots are giving Mac Jones a strong chance to rebound this season after signing Smith-Schuster and Gesicki, but the biggest acquisition might be offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who took play-calling duties from Matt Patricia. The Patriots also retained standout cornerback Jonathan Jones and defensive back Jalen Mills.
New York Jets
Notable additions: WR Allen Lazard, WR Mecole Hardman, QB Aaron Rodgers* (not yet official)
Notable departures: WR Elijah Moore, RB James Robinson
Everyone is tired of waiting. Let’s just assume Rodgers will play for the Jets, and whenever the trade with the Packers occurs, they’ll be one of the biggest winners of free agency. The Jets added a versatile and familiar wideout for Rodgers with the signing of Lazard. They shipped Moore to Cleveland, but gained a speedy receiver in Hardman.
Notable additions: CB Patrick Peterson, OG Isaac Seumalo
Notable departures: CB Cameron Sutton, LB Devin Bush, S Terrell Edmunds
The Steelers got better on the offensive line with Seumalo, and added Peterson to a stacked defense. Pittsburgh needs help at linebacker, but it’s missing something else and it might be at quarterback. We’ll soon find out whether Kenny Pickett, the 2022 first-round pick, is the guy for Pittsburgh.
Grade: B minus
Notable additions: OT Andre Dillard, DE Arden Key, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
Notable departures: OG Nate Davis, ILB David Long Jr., OT Taylor Lewan, OLB Bud Dupree
The Titans get a passable grade because GM Ran Carthon cleaned up the team’s messy salary cap, but Tennessee hasn’t made many impactful moves that will help it on the field this year, besides signing Key. The Titans took a gamble on Dillard, a 2019 first-round pick, becoming a reliable left tackle after he struggled to crack the starting lineup with the Eagles.