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2013 AFC free-agency grades

Grading every AFC team on how much it has improved in free agency

Originally Published: April 1, 2013
By Matt Williamson | ESPN.com

The landscape of the NFL has shifted dramatically since the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3. While Joe Flacco re-signed with the Ravens, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and many other stars have new homes.

Matt Williamson grades all 32 NFL teams on their free-agent acquisitions, 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.

Note: This file does not reflect trades. Signings current as of March 31.


Before we get into the grades, a few words on my system. First, in order to earn a high grade, you need to do something. For example, teams like Oakland and Carolina may not have had much to spend, so it's understandable that they haven't been overly active. But you have to participate to earn a high grade.

Track record matters as well, particularly when it comes to proven teams like the Giants, Steelers and Packers that haven't done a ton but whose history suggests their offseason decisions are usually the right ones. I would be lying if I said these squads do not get the benefit of the doubt. But more than anything, for the sake of this exercise, I gave the highest grades to the teams that improved their rosters by the largest margin since free agency began.

That said, I marked some teams down for overspending. Value is a key component of every offseason contract. A great player might help in one area but cripple it elsewhere due to cap-space issues.

Finally, player retention also plays a role. Baltimore is obviously the best example of this. Sure, the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning roster was raided, but they also retained Joe Flacco -- a signing that simply had to be done -- who should keep them a contender for years to come.

The final piece to my methodology is this: How well did a team set itself up for the draft? Philadelphia stands out in this regard, as it should now be able to make value picks in each round and not reach for a major need position.

In the end, there are many factors at play with these grades, but I hope this helps explain my line of thinking. Now, on to the report cards.

FREE-AGENCY REVIEW:

AFC Grades | NFC Grades | FA tracker


Denver Broncos

Key additions: WR Wes Welker, G Louis Vasquez, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LB Kevin Vickerson (re-signed), LB Stewart Bradley
Key losses: DE Elvis Dumervil, LB D.J. Williams

Analysis: Obviously adding Welker is the biggest story here, and I expect him to excel in this offense and very quickly develop great chemistry and timing with Peyton Manning. But adding Vasquez could pay off as much, as Vasquez is very solid in all aspects of guard play and further strengthens this offensive front. Developing a game plan against this offense is going to be a nightmare.

On the defensive front, Dumervil is gone, but Knighton, whom Jack Del Rio is familiar with due to their time together in Jacksonville, is an upgrade in talent over what the Broncos had in 2012. Denver wants to play a lot of man coverage and Rodgers-Cromartie fits that scheme, although he offers little versus the run or in the physical aspects of the position. The rich got richer this offseason in Denver.

Grade: A



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