Chris Burke's Off Season Grades
He gave the Steelers a C grade. I can live with that. Love being under estimated.
From Chris Burke, SI.Com
"With NFL training camps finally at our doorstep and the bulk of teams’ offseason legwork completed, it’s time to take a look back at what each team was able to accomplish since the end of the 2011 season.
Our NFL offseason grades take into account the 2012 draft grades, what’s occurred in free agency and trade markets, and any extraneous off-field circumstances (bounties and non-bounties alike).
The goal here? To sum up how successful each team was in prepping for the 2012 season — and, of course, to give you another opportunity to, well, express your disagreements with my assessments; it has been almost three months since those draft grades, after all.
So, without further delay, the NFL offseason grades. Click on a team name to read our full Offseason Breakdown:
• Arizona Cardinals: Finding a No. 2 receiver (Michael Floyd) and getting Calais Campbell locked up long-term were big steps in the right direction. They swung and missed on Peyton Manning, however, displaying their lack of confidence in Kevin Kolb in the process. They’re also still weak at OT, pending a Bobbie Massie breakthrough, and at linebacker, and didn’t really address either spot. Grade: B-minus
• Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons pulled off a double play, trading for Asante Samuel in a low-risk, huge-upside move and keeping Brent Grimes around with the franchise tag. They also added LB Lofa Tatupu, but does he have anything left in the tank? Offensively, this is basically the same team we saw in 2011 — and that team fell apart in a playoff loss. Grade: B
• Baltimore Ravens: Locking up Ray Rice just prior to the franchise-tag deadline was a huge boon for this franchise, which keeps its dynamic running back long-term and avoids a sticky potential holdout. The big swaps here are at OLB, where Paul Kruger and rookie Courtney Upshaw have to replace the reliable Jarrett Johnson and an injured Terrell Suggs; and at left guard, where … someone … has to take Ben Grubbs spot. Did Baltimore do enough? Grade: B-minus
• Buffalo Bills: It’s hard to imagine an offseason going much better. The Bills stocked up on the defensive line, adding Mario Williams and Mark Anderson at DE, then landed at least two potential immediate-impact guys in the draft in CB Stephon Gilmore and OT/G Cordy Glenn. Are there holes on this roster? Sure. But a lot less than in 2011. Grade: A
• Carolina Panthers: The addition of Mike Tolbert here may be one of the most underrated moves of the entire offseason. Add in a strong draft that produced likely starters in LB Luke Kuechly and OL Amini Silatolu, and Carolina has to feel pretty good. Getting one more playmaker at receiver or more help in the secondary would have been nice. Grade: B-plus
• Chicago Bears: Trading for Brandon Marshall was a potential game-changer, and settling on an extension for Matt Forte means the core of this offense should be around for a few years. On the flip side, the offensive line is still a potential sieve that basically went ignored. Grade: B
• Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals’ draft was nothing short of sensational, but there’s always danger when a young team undergoes a ton of turnover. Gone are guys like Cedric Benson, Jerome Simpson, Bobbie Williams, Jonathan Fanene, Keith Rivers and others. The replacements look capable, even if the overall plan is a bit of a gamble. Grade: A-minus
• Cleveland Browns: I gave the Browns a C-plus for the draft, and that still feels pretty accurate for the whole picture (even though I liked the Josh Gordon move more than a lot of others did). Cleveland let it fly in the draft, then played it pretty low-key in free agency, with the Frostee Rucker addition being the only fairly big move. Meh. Grade: C-plus
• Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys’ clear focus was to upgrade their pass defense, hence the move for Morris Claiborne at the draft and the signing of Brandon Carr in free agency. Picking up Kyle Orton could pay off. Anthony Spencer has to step up his game to earn the franchise tag he received. Grade: B
• Denver Broncos: I did not like the Broncos’ draft (their “D” grade was one of the lowest I handed out). The rest of Denver’s offseason has been considerably more impressive. The Peyton Manning signing is the obvious score, but the Broncos also made necessary moves at WR, TE, DT and CB. Grade: B-minus
• Detroit Lions: The Lions did an admirable job tiptoeing around salary cap hell (though failing to get Cliff Avril signed long-term was a direct result of that issue). And they found some help in the draft in OL Riley Reiff and some mid-to-late-round corners. But unless one of those young CBs steps up, Detroit didn’t really address a weak secondary that lost Eric Wright. Detroit brings back 21 of 22 starters, but they didn’t necessarily get better anywhere. Oh, and how do we score arrests? Grade: C
• Green Bay Packers: The defending NFC North champs stocked up on defense in the draft, and at least three of eight picks (Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Heyward) could see significant time. Getting Jeff Saturday to replace Scott Wells at center was a terrific move, too. But are the Packers ever going to address the safety spot? And let’s not even mention the disaster that would strike if Aaron Rodgers went down, now that Matt Flynn is in Seattle. Grade: B
• Houston Texans: This was a scary offseason for the Texans. Plenty of talent remains and the draft brought some promising players (specifically, Whitney Mercilus), but you don’t just lose Mario Williams, multiple offensive linemen, DeMeco Ryans, etc., and not feel it a bit. Grade: C
• Indianapolis Colts: The Colts’ offseason is a tough one to measure. After challenging 0-16 last year, the franchise opted to wipe the slate clean and get younger — and it’s hard to find fault in that approach. Indianapolis still said farewell to upwards of a dozen key contributors, including Manning, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme at tight end, Saturday, Jamaal Anderson and Gary Brackett. The Colts set themselves up to be bigger players next offseason; this one was heart-wrenching. Grade: B-minus
• Jacksonville Jaguars: If Chad Henne winds up throwing 20 touchdown passes to Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson, the outlook will change drastically. As it is, a team that was fairly uncompetitive during a 5-11 season did almost nothing to get better anywhere other than wide receiver. Grade: D-plus
• Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs’ draft success hinges on how good Dontari Poe wants to be — questions about his work ethic hounded him heading into April. Elsewhere, the Chiefs did well to pluck Eric Winston and Peyton Hillis from free agency to help revamp the offense, and landing Stanford Routt eased the pain of losing Brandon Carr. Quarterback remains an issue, and the Chiefs failed to lock Dwayne Bowe up beyond 2012. Grade: B-minus
• Miami Dolphins: Even if Brandon Marshall rankled people in the locker room, giving him up to Chicago for a pair of third-round picks is dubious. The Ryan Tannehill draft pick might be argued for years, but Jonathan Martin and Michael Egnew should play huge roles. Also, Yeremiah Bell started all but one game at safety for the past four seasons and he’s now a Jet. Grade: C
• Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder now has a new left tackle in Matt Kalil and a new receiver in Jerome Simpson (though a three-game suspension limits Simpson’s impact). Other than that, we’ll have to wait and see. Can Chris Carr, Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton help a terrible secondary? Grade: C-plus
• New England Patriots: To think that this offense could be even better in 2012 is kind of silly, but it’s true. Swapping out BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Chad Ochocinco for Joseph Addai, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth is advantage: New England. Picking up Will Allen was a smart, low-risk move. Re-signing Andre Carter and getting him back to 100-percent health would be a cherry on top. Grade: B-plus
• New Orleans Saints: This could have been much worse. The draft was basically a wash. The Saints lost some serious talent in Robert Meachem, Carl Nicks, Aubrayo Franklin and Tracy Porter. But they kept things together by signing G Ben Grubbs, DT Brodrick Bunkley and a trio of linebackers. Signing Drew Brees to a multi-year deal finally restored some positive momentum. It was a tough offseason, but New Orleans remains the NFC South favorite. Grade: C-plus
• New York Giants: There are big names among the Giants’ departed players — Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham and, to a lesser extent, Aaron Ross, Deon Grant and others. The impact could be minimal if rookies like David Wilson and Reuben Randle are as good as advertised. Acquiring Keith Rivers for some change they found in the sofa bumps this grade up. Grade: B-plus
• New York Jets: Was Tim Tebow the missing piece? Otherwise, all the Jets did at QB was create a season of tumult. Can Quinton Coples be a game-changer at DE? Will Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry upgrade the safety spots? Lots of questions … not many answers for a team that had cap issues and may have taken a step back as a result. Grade: D
• Oakland Raiders: Oakland sat out Rounds 1 and 2 of the draft, so only so much help will come from the rookie class. And the Raiders had to shed a bunch of contracts just to get cap-compliant, so it may be next offseason when we can fairly grade this summer’s work. But in the short-term, Oakland did not get better, though Mike Briesel was a solid addition up front. The losses of Routt, Chris Johnson, Michael Bush, John Henderson and a boatload of others will resonate. Grade: C-minus
• Philadelphia Eagles: Philly moved quickly to nab OT Demetress Bell after Jason Peters tore his Achilles, and that should pay off. The draft went well, too, with Fletcher Cox the first of several picks that could contribute. There’s no proven backup QB if Michael Vick gets hurt again. The offseason was really defined by two trades, though: The Eagles dumped Asante Samuel on Atlanta, and added DeMeco Ryans from Houston. Grade: B-plus
• Pittsburgh Steelers: Some good fortune at the draft helped Pittsburgh land two potential OL starters (Mike Adams, David DeCastro) plus a DL contributor (Alameda Ta’amu). Still, the Steelers lost a ton this offseason, mainly due to cap issues. Replacing Hines Ward, James Farrior and other long-time vets will be just as hard in the locker room as on the field. The Mike Wallace situation also could be a massive distraction this year. Grade: C
• San Diego Chargers: The Chargers’ first three draft picks turned up three potential impact players in Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes and Brandon Taylor. The rest of the offseason was spent remaking the roster. Vincent Jackson and Kris Dielman were the big losses. Robert Meachem could have a huge season as Vincent Jackson’s replacement, while Jarrett Johnson was a sensational signing at LB. Don’t sleep on the addition of safety Atari Bigby, either. Grade: B
• San Francisco 49ers: The Niners are still thin on the defensive front, but they addressed just about every other concern — unless you count QB, where Alex Smith reigns again. Between Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins and Randy Moss, the WR spot should be improved. Brandon Jacobs is an odd fit for the offense, but he at least gives Frank Gore some help. Keeping Dashon Goldson around was important. Grade: B
• Seattle Seahawks: The high-profile move here was getting QB Matt Flynn in free agency. However, we’re not even sure if Flynn will beat out Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson for the starting gig. Seattle needs the surprising Bruce Irvin draft pick to pay off. DT Jason Jones may wind up being the most important pick-up and keeping Red Bryant was key, but the defense may not be able to replace David Hawthorne. Grade: B-minus
• St. Louis Rams: The Rams earned a B-plus for their draft, and that could be low if Janoris Jenkins plays up to his potential. Not surprisingly, a new coaching staff meant a huge overhaul of the roster. The key additions include CB Cortland Finnegan, DTs Kendall Langford and Trevor Laws, and C Scott Wells. A lot of talent left, too, including Lloyd, Justin Bannan, Ron Bartell and Chris Chamberlain, but this was a necessary restart. Grade: B-plus
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Solid work was done here in Greg Schiano’s first offseason, but let’s not pretend everything was solved overnight. Mark Barron will be a key cog in the defense for years, but the corners need to be much better and I’m not convinced Eric Wright can make that happen. I am a big fan of rookie LB Lavonte David, and the Vincent Jackson addition gives Tampa a much-needed threat at receiver. The Bucs also opened the wallet for Carl Nicks, and he should provide a boost up front. Slow and steady. Grade: B
• Tennessee Titans: G Steve Hutchinson and DE Kamerion Wimbley should plug right into the starting lineup, while rookie WR Kendall Wright might wind up there too. Keeping Michael Griffin prevented a devastating summer on defense, because the Titans were unable to retain Jason Jones or Finnegan. It’s hard to say this team is any better than it was last year. Grade: C-plus
• Washington Redskins: If the Redskins’ additions don’t pay off in 2012, it won’t be for lack of trying. Washington drafted its franchise QB (Robert Griffin III), added multiple receivers (Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan), redid its safety positions (Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather) and picked up a couple of depth guys (LB Jonathan Goff, CB Cedric Griffin). But yet again, the Redskins neglected the O-line, save for taking Josh LeRibeus in Round 3. Grade: B-minus"