Monday, April 1, 2013
AFC North free-agency grades
By Jamison Hensley
Matt Williamson of ESPN.com put together his AFC free-agency grades, factoring in each organization's track record, how improved the team is from the start of free agency on the field and how each team positioned itself for the draft. It's an Insider post, which means you'll need a subscription to view the entire piece. I can pass along the grades for the AFC North teams and my take on it.
Williamson's grade: C-plus. The Ravens' roster has been noticeably weakened, but when analyzing their offseason, we can't overlook that the Super Bowl champions have locked up Joe Flacco.
Hensley's comment: I would give the Ravens a "B-minus." The Ravens couldn't overpay for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and safety Ed Reed, and in return, they got great value on pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil and safety Michael Huff. The worst decision was trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Williamson's grade: D. I understand the theory that re-signing your own and cultivating talent through the draft is a great way to build a winner, but Cincinnati opened the free-agency period with a ton of money to spend -- and really has very little to show for it right now.
Hensley's comment: The Bengals could have certainly been more aggressive in free agency, especially when addressing needs at safety, outside linebacker and right tackle. But it's hard to give the Bengals something lower than a "C" if they end up re-signing Andre Smith and reaching extensions with defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
Williamson's grade: B. The Browns' front five (including their outside linebackers) in this new 3-4 is dramatically improved and should be a strength of the team.
Hensley's comment: This is a fair grade for the Browns. While you can argue that the Browns overspent, they upgraded on defense with linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant. This could have been an "A" offseason if the Browns had signed a starting cornerback and brought back kicker Phil Dawson.
Williamson's grade: D. While Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison, Willie Colon and Mike Wallace all have their individual issues and moving on from each player was probably the right move, that is still a lot talent to see walking out the door -- with very little walking in.
Hensley's comment: You can make a case for giving the Steelers an "F" this offseason. Pittsburgh lost five starters and failed to improve any spot in the starting lineup because of salary-cap constraints. The only positives were upgrading the backup quarterback position with Bruce Gradkowski and re-signing linebacker Larry Foote.