NFL Free agent grades: Rams take risk with Jake Long

Dilip Vishwanat

Monday saw little activity on the free-agent market, but there were still a few minor signings after St. Louis signed Jake Long late Sunday night. We dish out preliminary grades for Monday's signings around the NFL.

Monday saw little activity on the free-agent market, as the NFL's focus shifts to the owners meetings this week in Arizona. Perhaps the top offensive lineman came off the market late Sunday night, before a flurry of minor moves took place on Monday.

Though the jury will remain out on these contracts until next year, it's never too early to give out preliminary grades, based on past performance, team need, and contract.

Rams end flirtation, sign Jake Long

Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams hosted Jake Long last week, but Long did not immediately sign a contract, and eventually left St. Louis. Speculation ran wild on whether or not Long would end up signing with the Rams, or returning back to Miami for another few years with the Dolphins.

On Sunday night, Long ended such speculation, signing a four-year, $36 million contract with the Rams. For St. Louis, it's a risky investment in the former No. 1 overall pick, as Long's play has declined in recent years. Regardless, Long figures to be an upgrade at left tackle for the Rams -- which is music to Sam Bradford's ears.

There's still risk involved, but protecting the quarterback is pivotal.

Grade: B+

Ben Watson signs three-year deal with Saints

Ben Watson's career never truly took off like many expected it to. After being selected in the first round by the New England Patriots in 2004 NFL Draft, Watson never became a major threat in the passing game, and had difficulties with drops while with the Patriots. Watson bolted after the 2009 season, and spent three years with the Browns.

Now in New Orleans, Watson will back up starting tight end Jimmy Graham, giving the Saints a legitimate, pass-catching, backup tight end. Watson isn't the most attractive name available, but he should fit very well in New Orleans' offense, and should be a more than capable backup for Graham.

Grade: B

Bengals re-sign Rey Maualuga

Cincinnati kept its 2009 second-round draft pick on Monday, agreeing to a deal that will keep the versatile Maualuga in Cincinnati for at least one more season.

Maualuga served as Cincinnati's middle linebacker in 2012, but will not return to that role next season -- much to the delight of Bengals fans. Maualuga's role in the 2013 defense is unknown currently, but it's likely to be at the SAM position, where he spent the first two years of his professional career.

Not losing players in free agency is always a plus, but Maualuga likely won't have a major impact on Cincinnati's 2013 success. Still, Maualuga is nice depth, and a familiar face on the field and in the locker room.

Grade: B-

Matt Spaeth returns to Pittsburgh

Matt Spaeth signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, two years after leaving Pittsburgh for the Bears in free agency. Spaeth was cut after Chicago signed Martellus Bennett in free agency, making him expendable in Chicago.

Spaeth won't really be on the radar for casual fans or fantasy fans, as he's not a viable threat in the passing game. Spaeth is a solid blocking tight end, however, and should help the Steelers as a blocker.

Grade: C+

Redskins sign Sav Rocca

Something tells me Sav Rocca isn't the major free agent signing Redskins fans were looking for this offseason, but penalties from the NFL regarding usage of the 2010 salary cap has handcuffed Washington.

The Redskins agreed to a two-year deal with Rocca, who enjoyed a good campaign as Washington's punter in 2012. It's hard to imagine the Redskins are paying Rocca top dollar, so this deal is likely acceptable for both parties.

Rocca returns to a team and stadium he's familiar with, which is beneficial for any kicker or punter.

Grade: C+

More from SB Nation:

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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