NFL free agency grades: Patriots, Vikings make necessary moves


Three big-name free agents signed over the weekend in the NFL, while a handful of role players found new teams. Though it's early, we hand out preliminary grades for the latest free agent signings.

Three of the top free agents signed this past weekend in the NFL, as the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots all added impact talent, while the Miami Dolphins continued a wild spending-spree.

Though it's much too early to judge each contract, since these players won't even take a snap with their new team for nearly half a year, let's take a look and hand out preliminary grades for this weekend's free agent signings.

Vikings finally sign Greg Jennings

After what appeared to be an on-again, off-again flirtation between the Minnesota Vikings and Greg Jennings, the Vikings finally signed Jennings to a five-year, $45 million deal, with $18 million in guaranteed money.

It's tough to fault Jennings for taking the largest payday possible, but he will struggle to replicate his career numbers with the Vikings. Instead of catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, Jennings will now be on the receiving end of Christian Ponder's passes.

For the Vikings, the deal makes sense. Minnesota badly needed a wide receiver, and Ponder clearly needs to be surrounded with talent. Jennings and recently-traded wide receiver Percy Harvin are two totally different players, but one thing is certain -- both are playmakers.

Still, Minnesota probably won't see the numbers it wants from Jennings, and Minnesota brass can blame Ponder for that.

Grade: B

Eagles land Connor Barwin

Connor Barwin had a career-year in 2011, recording 11.5 sacks for the Houston Texans. Unfortunately for Barwin, he regressed in 2012, recording just three sacks before hitting the free agent market -- yet the Philadelphia Eagles signed Barwin to a six-year, $36 million deal anyway.

Crazy, right?

Not so fast.

Our Eagles blog, Bleeding Green Nation, has the details of Barwin's contract, noting that all the guaranteed money comes in the first two years of the deal, and that in the first three years, Barwin will only make $13.5 million. Now that's much more reasonable.

If Barwin is his 2011 self, this deal is a steal, but it's much more likely his production will land somewhere between 2011 and 2012 -- which still isn't bad, as he'll give the Eagles solid depth.

Grade: B+

Michael Bennett joins talented Seahawks

Simply put, Michael Bennett was one of the top free-agent defensive linemen on the market this offseason, and the Seattle Seahawks signed him to a very modest, one-year, $5 million deal.

Bennett recorded nine sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, representing a career-high. Bennett now joins a defensive line that boasts Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin in what figures to be one of the toughest defenses in the league.

This deal is likely well below what Bennett and his agent dreamed of when free agency started, and should be a steal for the Seahawks.

Grade: A-

Patriots shore up secondary

After signing Danny Amendola and Donald Jones, Bill Belichick went to work on his defense in the opening stages of free agency. The Patriots re-signed cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington, while adding veteran safety Adrian Wilson.

Talib is the headliner here, and he signed a one-year, $5 million contract to remain in Foxboro. Talib reportedly had other offers on the table, including a five-year deal from the Patriots, but opted for the one-year pact, and will again test the market next offseason.

More Pats moves: Brandon Lloyd has been cut

Talib's contract should be a win-win. The Patriots keep their top cornerback, and were a much better defense with Talib, while Talib gets to boost his value on a one-year deal and re-test the market in 12 months.

Arrington signed a four-year deal with the Patriots, and should return as New England's slot defender -- a role he excels in. Arrington isn't much of a corner when he's on the outside, but as a nickel and dime corner, he provides excellent depth, and necessary depth for New England.

Wilson, meanwhile, brings physicality to a Patriots secondary that has simply lacked it in recent years. Just one year removed from an All-Pro season, Wilson still should have something left in the tank. It's highly improbable that Wilson will serve as an every-down safety, but he should make an impact for the Patriots.

Grades: Talib A-, Arrington B+, Wilson B+

Dolphins continue to spend, add Brandon Gibson

The Dolphins have been one of the busiest teams in the NFL in the last week, and they added another wide receiver to the fold in Brandon Gibson.

Gibson caught 51 passes in 2012 for 691 yards, and only had 108 yards-after-catch last season.

It's clear to see what the Dolphins are doing, but it's fair to question how they're doing it. Miami re-signed Brian Hartline (a good move), before signing Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller and now Gibson to bolster its receiving corps, in effort to boost Ryan Tannehill's development.

Whether or not it will work remains to be seen, but Tannehill will have to work on building chemistry with at least three new receivers. While Wallace and Keller are talented, Gibson simply isn't that good, and illustrates Miami's reckless plan.

Grade: C-

Giants sign Brandon Myers

The New York Giants replaced Martellus Bennett this weekend with Brandon Myers, who enjoyed a career-year in 2012, catching 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns. While the receiving numbers are nice, Myers apparently isn't a poor blocking tight end -- he's the worst blocking tight end.

Big Blue View: The Giants depth chart

It remains to be seen how often Myers will play and how Tom Coughlin plans to use him, but Myers is a one-dimensional tight end, and is unlikely to be an every-down tight end. Myers provides Eli Manning with a nice target, but he'll add nothing to the run game.

Grade: C+

Jaguars add Roy Miller to defense

Jacksonville signed Roy Miller over the weekend to a two-year contract as the Jaguars continue to rebuild their defense. Miller spent the first four years of his career with the Buccaneers.

Though not a pass rusher by any means, Miller is a solid defender against the run and should help Jacksonville improve from the No. 30 rushing defense in the league in 2012.

Miller isn't the big, shiny, free-agent signing that most fans dream on at the onset of free agency, but he is a good value signing, which is the very best kind.

Grade: A-

More in the NFL:

Printable bracket for March Madness

NFL Mock Draft: Geno Smith's rapid rise

Jake Long's impact on the Rams

NFL free agency grades: Chiefs, Broncos fare well

Elvis Dumervil boosts the free agent market

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