Free Agency 2016

AFC North Free Agency Grades

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“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

We’re through one week of free agency and there have been too many moves to count (that’s why you should check out our Free Agency Diary).

There are still some moves to make, but we’re going to grade the teams on what they’ve done during the first week.

Baltimore Ravens: B+

Sometimes Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome gets more credit than he deserves, but it’s tough not to argue with what his team has done thus far in free agency.

Baltimore managed to get better in the secondary by signing veteran Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, and they found quarterback Joe Flacco a speedy weapon in Mike Wallace, who could play the role vacated by Torrey Smith prior to the 2015 season.  Add in tight end Ben Watson and the team has had a net free agency gain.

The team did what was expected by moving on from veterans Daryl Smith and Chris Canty, and they were forced to release safety Will Hill after being notified of his pending 10-game suspension.

Cincinnati Bengals: B+

Not every team has a similar free agency plan.  Of course everyone wants to get better from year to year, but the better teams are resigned to the fact that they will have to let some guys go. The Bengals are/were in that position this year with plenty of young talent hitting the market.

Cincinnati may not have as good of a roster as they left 2015 with, but they are set up for future success with the re-signing of young safety George Iloka, and veteran stop-gaps defensive tackle Pat Sims and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Sure, they had to say goodbye to wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, as well as former first-round pick Andre Smith, but that was expected.  The Bengals are paying a lot of money to A.J. Green and they shouldn’t pay big dollars to a No. 2 wide receiver option, when they have tight end Tyler Eifert and can find WR’s in the draft.

Cleveland Browns: F-

One would assume that losing expensive pieces from a 3-13 team isn’t that big of a deal.  I mean, they only won three games with those guys, they can’t lose any more than three games without them, right?

On the surface that logic computes, but the mass exodus of free agents leaving Cleveland not only represents a talent deficit on the roster, but it also means that players just don’t want to be there, regardless of the changes in management and money they can offer.

The Browns biggest loss was safety Tashaun Gipson to Jacksonville, and again, he didn’t leave to go to a proven winner, as much as just to get away from Northeast Ohio.  The team didn’t see it fit to lock up speedy wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who went to San Diego, and they lost offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz to Kansas City.  Center Alex Mack opted out of his deal only to sign with the Atlanta Falcons.  Add in the releases of Karlos Dansby, Dwayne Bowe and Johnny Manziel, and it’s hard to figure out how a terrible team is better in 2016.

Pittsburgh Steelers: C-

The Steelers never seemingly take much interest in the signing of other team’s free agents.  Following a playoff season, they weren’t in the position where they needed to do a lot to get over the hump.

With that said, their offseason hasn’t had a lot of positives.  First, tight end Heath Miller retired, which forced the team to sign free agent Ladarius Green from San Diego.  Although Green looks the part, he hasn’t shown his enormous ability for much more than flashes throughout his career.

The biggest blow was the suspension of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who will miss the entire 2016 season.  Pittsburgh lost starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum to Jacksonville, defensive tackle Steve McClendon to the New York Jets, cornerback Antwon Blake and linebacker Sean Spence to Tennessee and running back Jordan Todman to Indianapolis.

The only outside free agent the team signed aside from Green was former Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who isn’t anywhere near as good as Beachum.

It’s been a tough offseason for the Steelers, but with a healthy core of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell coming back, they should be in contention again.

AFC East Free Agency Grades


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.