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Grading Day One of Free Agency Part 1

This offseason has been nothing short of outstanding! It has exceeded expectations and already we have seen a lot of major names change places. The 2020 season is going to be vastly different than this past year. Some players seem to be in a perfect fit where they landed and others seem to have signed wherever the money was. The first day of free agency is usually where most of the big-name free agents. Here are grades for every transaction.

Austin Hooper
New Cleveland Browns Tight End Austin Hooper    Courtesy of atlantafalcons.com

Austin Hooper signs with the Cleveland Browns for 4 years $44 million: A-

The Browns made Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in Football. Kevin Stefanski runs most of his offense with two tight ends on the field, so this makes sense having Hooper and Njoku on the roster. This seems like a luxury that gives Baker Mayfield no excuse to have a top-10 offense next season.

Houston Texans trade DeAndre Hopkins and 2020 4th round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson, 2020 2nd round pick, and 2021 4th round pick. Texans: D, Cardinals: A

The biggest headline of the day happened early on. This trade seemed unnecessary for the Houston Texans to make and if this trade was done they should have received a lot more compensation for a talent like Hopkins. Even though this deal might put Bill O’Brien on the hot seat, David Johnson is a slight upgrade at running back. Arizona got a Larry Fitzgerald (in his prime) clone in DeAndre Hopkins and now have a true number one receiver for Kyler Murray for a discount. Hopkins is also on the books for Arizona for the next three seasons and for only for $12.5 million a year.

Ereck Flowers signs with the Miami Dolphins for 3 years $30 million: B-

It’s great to see Ereck Flowers turn around the narrative on him turning from a bust at left tackle to a solid starter at guard. However, this seems like the Dolphins were scrambling to sign a veteran guard after Joe Thuney was surprisingly franchise tagged and overpaid Flowers a tiny bit.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Arik Armstead re-signs with the San Fransisco 49ers for 5 years $85 million: B

It was surprising to see the 49ers retain Amstead after he had a career year recording 10 sacks for the 49ers’ elite defense. Amstead likely turned down more money to return to the 49ers. The only negative to this move is that Amstead had not shown consistent sack production posting only nine sacks in his previous four years combined. The Armstead extension resulted in the 49ers trading away one of the most consistent pieces on their defense as well.

Nick Kwiatkoski signs with the Las Vegas Raiders for 3 years $21 million: B+

Kwaitkoski was one of the gems of this free-agent class. Having been buried behind Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan he had limited playing time. However, Kwiatkoski is a starting caliber middle linebacker and fills one of the Raiders’ long time needs at the position. He has Pro Bowl potential which would make him a steal for the Raiders if he reached it.

Blake Jarwin re-signs with the Dallas Cowboys for 4 years $22 million: B-

Even though Blake Jarwin will be making $5.5 million per year, this kind of feels like an overpay. Jarwin has never reached 400 receiving yards or more than 4 touchdowns in a season. He has also only had 11 starts in his career. Understandably so, the Cowboys do have a hole at tight end that this year’s draft class is too weak to fill and he did show his potential massing over 100 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 17 game versus the New York Giants in 2018-19. But unless Mike McCarthy plans on making Jarwin a legitimate weapon on this offense for Dak Prescott, it doesn’t make sense to extend him long term.

Former Buffalo Bills edge rusher signs with division rival Miami Dolphins

Shaq Lawson signs with the Miami Dolphins for 3 years $30 million: B+

Shaq Lawson is the latest edition of the Dolphins’ first-round pick edge rushers on their roster that failed to reach expectations. Those include Taco Charlton and Charles Harris. All jokes aside, this is actually a good deal. The former first-round pick has only had one full season as a full-time starter. But Lawson’s ceiling is high and the Dolphins got him for a good deal. This exact contract might have been an overpay for a guard (Ereck Flower) but is steal for a productive edge rusher.

Baltimore Ravens trade Hayden Hurst and 2020 4th round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for 2020 2nd & 5th round pick. Ravens: A, Falcons: A-

This seems like a win for both sides. The Falcons get a former first-round pick tight end to replace Austin Hooper and the Ravens get a high draft pick for a former first-round pick who was lost in the Baltimore offense and needed a fresh start. The Ravens usually don’t miss on draft picks so the Ravens turn one of their rare busts into an opportunity to pick another talented player to add to their Super Bowl-caliber team. The Falcons get a cheap option to replace an elite tight end they could not afford. Hurst should be able to fit Hooper’s role, but it is still a question whether he will be able to produce at the level Hooper did in this offense.

Jason Pierre-Paul re-signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 2 years $27 million: A-

People forgot about Jason Pierre-Paul after he got traded from New York, but he is still one of better pass rushers in the league at age 31. He has 21 sacks in 26 career games with the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers likely convinced Pierre-Paul to take a team-friendly deal in order to keep Shaquil Barrett on the roster with the franchise tag and to sign their starting quarterback next season. This is one of the most discrete impactful moves of the offseason. The Buccaneers just have to hope that JPP’s age doesn’t cause a rapid decline in production during the next two years.

Newly traded for Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner

The San Fransisco 49ers trade DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick. The Colts also extended Buckner for 4 years $84 Million. 49ers: B, Colts: A-

This is not a great move for the 49ers. They didn’t get robbed, as the compensation was fair. The 49ers jumped the gun and traded Buckner with one year left on his deal. They also chose to keep Arik Armstead over Buckner who has been a lot less consistent as far as producing since entering the league. They also didn’t have to move Buckner this year. They could have kept him for a year, franchise-tagged him, then moved him for a first-round pick, rather than trading him and expecting Arik Amstead to play more defensive tackle to replace Buckner. The deal could be better if the 49ers took a wide receiver or defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with that pick. Also the Colts look like they’re trying to win now by adding an elite defensive tackle that could help immediately rather than develop one they could take with he 13th overall pick.

Jon Bostic re-signs with the Washington Redskins for 2 years $6.6 million: B

Jon Bostic has played for a different team every season since 2015. He is a journeyman starting caliber middle linebacker who usually plays for teams with sudden needs at the position. Now that he has found a two-year home in Washington, he is a cheap player who is a starter for their defense.

Former All-Pro Tackle Jack Conklin fills a huge need for the Cleveland Browns

Jack Conklin signs with the Cleveland Browns for 3 years $42 million: A

The Browns make their second huge free-agent signing of the day.  Cleveland’s biggest needs were both tackle positions and they signed the best right tackle on the market. They filled one of their biggest needs at a discount too. The unbelievable part about this signing is that the Browns did not have to pay Conklin a contract that would make him the highest-paid at his position.

Case Keenum signs with the Cleveland Browns for 3 years $18 million: B+

Case Keenum is the best journeyman quarterback in the league right now. Keenum’s best year was under new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski. Now as the backup, Keenum can help Baker Mayfield learn the offense in the quarterback room. He also is a very reliable option if anything happens to Mayfield. Worst-case scenario, if Mayfield regresses Keenum is a capable starter that could run this offense very well.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai signs with the Detroit Lions for 5 years $45 million: C-

The Lions cut their extremely solid right tackle Rick Wagner and signed a swing tackle who only has 20 career starts. Not to mention, they gave him a five-year contract. It is very risky and a confusing signing to say the least. Vaitai was going to be a team’s starting tackle next season, because he has played well in the limited time he saw the field and there is a shortage of capable starting tackles around the league. It’s just hard to understand the Lions’ mindset signing Vaitai to that kind of contract after having a better tackle in place.

Graham Glasgow signs with the Denver Broncos for 4 years $44 million: A-

The Broncos needed to get more help for Drew Lock and the first thing a team should do once they draft a quarterback is protect him. Graham Glasgow could do just that. He has the versatility to play guard and center, two positions that the Broncos need. Glasgow is the perfect replacement for Connor McGovern or Ron Leary.

James Bradberry signs with the New York Giants for 3 years $43.3 million: B+

This is a huge pick up for a New York Giants team who has needed a fresh start at cornerback after cutting Janoris Jenkins midway through last season. The Giants overpaid for Bradberry slightly, making him the fourth highest-paid corner in the league, but got him at market value and now have a solid duo of outside cornerbacks in Bradberry and Deandre Baker.

NFL Free Agents
The Miami Dolphins made Byron Jones the highest paid cornerback in football                                    (Photo Credit: 247 Sports)

Byron Jones signs with the Miami Dolphins for 5 years $43.3 million: A

The Dolphins have the top two highest-paid cornerbacks in football. But now they also have the best cornerback duo in football in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. Both are elite number one caliber cornerbacks and will be the centerpieces of a Dolphins’ defense that could be amongst the league’s elite next season.

Stephen Weatherly signs with the Carolina Panthers for 2 years $12.5 Million: B-

The former seventh-round pick got a nice payday from showing the ability to get to the quarterback having three sacks in each of the last two seasons. He might not be the answer for the Panthers’ edge-rushing needs, but he is capable of being a starter for them going forward.

The second half of this article can be found here

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