2014 NFL free agency grades: Golden Tate, Darrelle Revis top late week wave of signings

Ronald Martinez

NFL teams didn't slow down much after a wild first day of free agency. The Patriots made the biggest splash of all by signing Darrelle Revis, and the Lions acquisition of Golden Tate bodes well for their future. Jason Chilton grades the moves from day two and three.

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The pace slowed down a bit after a wild opening day, but the next 48 hours of 2014 free agency didn't lack for intrigue. Some All-Pro corners and pass rushers changed addresses, and few positions were left un-churned as teams jockeyed for position for the upcoming season.

Offensive Tackle

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Rodger Saffold STL STL 5 $31.7 $19 $6.3 $3.1 -$3.2
Anthony Collins CIN TB 5 $30 $15 $6 $2.3 -$3.7
Breno Giacomini SEA NYJ TBD TBD TBD $1.4 $1.4 $0

The Curious Case of Roger Saffold has (maybe) reached a conclusion. Saffold had been wildly overpaid by the Raiders before owner Mark Davis flapped his way up from the dungeons underneath the Coliseum, briefly took human form and voided the deal based on concerns over Saffold's shoulder. Fortunately for Saffold, the Rams had no such reservations. After about three different reported contract amounts, the dust finally settled and Saffold found himself in possession of a relatively shiny five-year, $31.7 million deal, with $19.1 million guaranteed. It's an overpay for a guy whose best use is probably at guard, but it's not all that terrible from the Rams' standpoint. Even if Saffold ends up on the interior, a few 800+ snap seasons at the caliber of play he turned in last year would give St. Louis a reasonable return on their investment.

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Tampa Bay tired of Donald Penn's average blocking and burgeoning Michelin Man impersonation and rolled the dice on former Bengals' swing tackle Anthony Collins. While somewhat lacking from a snaps standpoint due to playing behind standout LT Andrew Whitworth, Collins has shown quality pass-blocking chops when called upon and kept the Bengals' offense from missing a beat down the stretch when injury forced Whitworth to kick inside. There's the chance Collins could be over-exposed as a full-time starter, but given the quality he's shown to date it's a solid gamble at a reasonable price for the Bucs.

The Jets signed Super Bowl-winning tackle Breno Giacomini - huzzah! Of course, there are two kinds of Super Bowl-winning players - those you win because of, and those you win in spite of. While terms of the contract have yet to be disclosed, Jets fans can hope that management realized which kind of player Giacomini is and paid accordingly.

Offensive Guard

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Chris Williams STL BUF 4 $13.5 $5.5 $3.4 $0.7 -$2.7
Jeff Linkenbach IND KC 1 $0.9 $0.3 $0.9 $0.7 -$0.2

Days two and three of free agency were fairly quiet at guard, but you might have heard a reasonably loud "WTF?" from Buffalo when the Bills dropped above-average cash on decidedly below-average guard Chris Williams. The guard spot was a serious problem for the Bills last season, but Williams has done little over the last three years to prove that he's the answer. At least E.J. Manuel has the mobility to escape if Williams reprises his 2013 matador act in pass protection, but that's hardly a recommendation for handing a journeyman-caliber player $5.5 mil guaranteed.

Having lost Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah in the first stanza of free agency, the Chiefts replied by inking ex-Colt G/T Jeff Linkenbach. Everyone in Kansas City from Jamaal Charles on down is fervently hoping that the Chiefs don't stop with Linkenbach.

Center

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Cody Wallace PIT PIT 3 TBD TBD TBD $1.4 TBD
Phil Costa DAL IND TBD TBD TBD TBD $1.2 TBD

Such were the Cowboys' cap woes that not even a modestly-priced and versatile backup like Phil Costa could survive the necessary Costa-cutting measures.

Wow. What a terrible joke.

Costa is probably stretched as a starter, but he showed enough quality play in 2012 (after a truly dire 2011) that the Colts could reasonably expect an upgrade on what Samson Satele had been bringing to the table.

The Steelers re-upped reserve G/C Cody Wallace on a three-year deal. Wallace didn't disgrace himself in five starts at center last season, so he's a swell guy to have around should Maurkice Pouncey get dinged/suspended for throwing a "Free Aaron Hernandez" rally.

Tight End

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Scott Chandler BUF BUF 2 TBD TBD TBD $2.7 TBD
David Johnson PIT SD 2 TBD TBD TBD $1.3 TBD

Days two and three were fairly placid at tight end, with a pair of re-ups providing the only real action at the position. The Bills signed up for another two seasons of mediocrity from Scott Chandler, and the Steelers followed suit by keeping backup TE David Johnson in the fold.

Wide receiver

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Eric Decker DEN NYJ 5 $36.3 $15 $7.3 $5.4 -$1.8
Golden Tate SEA DET 5 $31 $13.3 $6.2 $3.9 -$2.3
Jacoby Jones BAL BAL 4 $14 $4.5 $3.5 $0.8 -$2.7
Ted Ginn CAR ARI 3 $9.8 TBD $3.3 $0.9 -$2.3

Eric Decker was the richest prize of this year's wide receiver crop, and he cashed in for $7 million per from the wideout-desperate Jets. Decker brings some plus skills as a downfield go-up-and-get-it guy, but he'd be stretched as a true No. 1 under the best of circumstances. And the Jets' QB situation is very unlikely to provide the best of circumstances, even if the rumored Mike Vick signing comes to pass.

With Calvin Johnson getting more attention than a twerking Miley Cyrus and Reggie Bush distracting linebackers, it should be easy for any No. 2 wideout to make hay in Detroit. But none of the Lions' No. 2 options really rose to the challenge in 2013, so Detroit ponied up to bring former Seahawk Golden Tate into the fold. While his stats weren't eye-popping in Seattle's run-heavy scheme, he's got good speed and some acrobatic athleticism. If he stays healthy, a 1,000/8 season is well within reach. With Tate and QB-savvy head man Jim Caldwell in the house, it's not too early to start targeting Matthew Stafford in fantasy.

Inconsistent deep ball/scary kick return guys Jacoby Jones and Ted Ginn each landed relatively tasty deals - the return portions of their games are the ones likely to drive the most value over the lives of their new deals.

Running back

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Pierre Thomas NO NO 2 TBD TBD TBD $2.8 #VALUE!

It was almost entirely quiet on the running back front on Wednesday and Thursday - the only real action came on the Saints' front with a trade of Darren Sproles to the Eagles and an extension for Pierre Thomas. Thomas proved a capable backfield outlet during Sproles' absences in 2013, and the reduction of the New Orleans backfield to a mere three-headed monster (Thomas/Ingram/Robinson) should still cause tremendous headaches for fantasy owners. For Sproles' part, he's landed with one of the few offensive coaches who can challenge Sean Payton in the creativity department. The Eagles should have no trouble making Sproles' $3.75 million salary pay off for them in 2014.

Quarterbacks

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Josh McCown CHI TB 2 TBD TBD TBD $3 TBD
Kellen Clemens STL SD 2 $3 $- $1.5 $1.4 -$0.1
Derek Anderson CAR CAR TBD TBD TBD TBD $0.3 TBD

While many people rolled their eyes when Josh McCown stepped in for an injured Jay Cutler, McCown proceeded to roll NFL defenses to the tune of 258 yards per game and an absurd 13/1 TD/INT ratio over seven starts for the Bears. That was enough to pique the Bucs' interest, and Tampa caught McCown's eye with a $10 million offer. Marshall/Jeffery > Jackson/maybe Williams, but McCown could still make some noise in a division where the only constant is a new winner every season.

Kellen Clemens and Derek Anderson also signed contracts, and you have no more interest in reading about these gentlemen than I do in writing about them.

Interior D-line

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Jason Hatcher DAL WAS 4 $27.5 TBD $6.9 $4.9 -$2
Randy Starks MIA MIA 2 $12 TBD $6 $4 -$2
Tony McDaniel SEA SEA 2 $6.3 TBD $3.1 $1.6 -$1.5
Al Woods PIT TEN 2 $5 TBD TBD $0.2 TBD
Terrell McClain HOU DAL 3 TBD TBD TBD $0.2 TBD
Leger Douzable NYJ NYJ 1 TBD TBD TBD $0.9 TBD
Vaughn Martin SD DET 1 TBD TBD TBD $0.4 TBD
Clifton Geathers PHI WAS 1 TBD TBD TBD $0.2 TBD

Ignoring the red lights and alarm klaxons that accompany the NFL's ironclad "No defensive free agents over 30" rule, the Redskins made Jason Hatcher a happy man with a four year, $28 million bounty. Hatcher was a standout on an otherwise dire Cowboys DL in 2013, and he probably has more tread on his tires than most guys his age. On the flip side ... NO DEFENSIVE FREE AGENTS OVER 30!!!

After losing run-game stalwart Paul Soliai, the Dolphins made sure that his partner stayed in South Beach as they re-upped Randy Starks on a two-year deal. A redux of his 2013 performance would have the Dolphins sitting pretty, but comparing 2013 to his previous two campaigns raises the ugly spectre of a contract-year push that's unlikely to be repeated.

Acquiring Tony McDaniel on the cheap was a key component of the Seahawks' Super Bowl campaign, as McDaniels' stout work against the run helped set opponents up in the second- and third-and-long situations that Pete Carroll's defense was built to annihilate. McDaniel didn't come quite as cheaply this time around, but it's still a quality signing for a Seattle bunch that already locked up difference-maker Michael Bennett.

Tennessee shifting to a 3-4 under new DC Ray Horton, and they nabbed an interior body in former Steeler Al Woods. While Woods won't wow anyone in the pass rush department, he should provide a rotational anchor that the Titans can build around.

The Texans saw enough of Terrell McClain to know they didn't want any part of him for a $1 million tender offer. This tends to be a clue that a player isn't very good, and McClain's pitiful three-year DVP average bears out that line of thinking. Naturally, Jerry Jones struck like a toupeed cobra at the opportunity to hand McClain a three year deal. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed (which usually means the player didn't exactly break the bank), and the Cowboys are clearly desperate for cheap bodies on one of the league's most destitute defensive fronts. But could reasonably hope to throw a dart in the fourth round of this or any other draft and find a random widebody who could at least equal what McClain has brought to the table thus far in his NFL career.

Edge defenders

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Demarcus Ware DAL DEN 3 $30 $20 $10 $7.4 -$2.6
Chris Clemons SEA JAC 4 $17.5 $4.8 $4.4 $4 -$0.4
Justin Tuck NYG OAK 2 $11 $- $5.5 $3.6 -$1.9
LaMarr Woodley PIT OAK 3 $11 $- $3.7 $3.6 -$0.1
Mike Neal GB GB TBD TBD TBD TBD $2.1 TBD
Ropati Pitoitua TEN TEN 3 $9.6 $2.2 $3.2 $1.9 -$1.3
Willie Young DET CHI 3 $9 $4 $3 $4.1 $1.1
Matt Shaughnessy ARI ARI TBD TBD TBD TBD $1.2 TBD
Marcus Benard ARI ARI TBD TBD TBD TBD $0.7 #VALUE!

Bad salary cap management always has its consequences, and for the Cowboys it meant a divorce with one of the franchise's all-time great defenders. DeMarcus Ware refused to take a pay cut to stay in Dallas, and Ware's view of his own market value was borne out as the Broncos swiftly swooped in with $20 million guaranteed dollars. Denver may be throwing post-Manning caution to the wind, but a healthy Ware should still have the goods to form a frightening pass rush tandem with Von Miller in 2014.

The Gus Bradley Reunion Tour continues, as Chris Clemons joins once-and-future linemate Red Bryant in reuniting with their old coach, the Seahawks former defensive coordinator. While Jacksonville still lacks the bodies to employ the Gatling gun-style D-line rotation that Seattle was known for, bagging Clemons and retaining Jason Babin are steps in the right direction.

So long as the Raiders exist, no castoff name veterans will ever go without a home. The signings of Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley promise to add plenty of name recognition and dubious pass rush output to the 2014 Oakland lineup.

So long as the Raiders exist, no castoff name veterans will ever go without a home.

If rumors are to be believed, normally savvy Packers' GM Ted Thompson put an $8 million a season offer on the table for low football character loafer B.J. Raji. Raji foolishly turned down the deal, blessing Green Bay with the opportunity to use their resources more effectively by re-upping Swiss Army Knife defender Mike Neal. Neal's unique physical skill set allows him to play almost every position in the Packers' front seven, giving Dom Capers the flexibility to sub out disappointing first-rounder Nick Perry or disappointing first-rounder Datone Jones on any snap.

Ropati Pitoitua made the most of his transition to strongside 4-3 end in 2013, but he'll be returning to a more familiar 3-4 role as the Titans switch alignments in 2014. Pitoitua won't scare many QBs, but he'll anchor Tennesee on early downs to set up guys like Akeem Ayers for pass-rush success on third-and-long.

The DL-desperate Bears convinced ex-Lion Willie Young to switch sides in the NFC North wars with a $3 million per offer. Young won't replace Julius Peppers' production (well, Peppers' historic production - his 2013 production wouldn't be too hard to match), but he should provide a quality rotational pass-rush piece at a reasonable price.

Linebackers

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Kavell Conner IND SD 3 TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD
Jon Beason NYG NYG 3 $19 $7 $6.3 TBD TBD
Joe Mays HOU KC 2 $6 TBD $3 TBD TBD
Keith Rivers NYG CHI 2 $5 TBD $2.5 TBD TBD
Darryl Sharpton HOU WAS 1 $2 TBD $2 TBD TBD
Will Herring NO DAL TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD

The Chargers dropped an undisclosed-but-still-probably-too-rich deal on ex-Colt Kavell Conner to serve (presumably) as a backup to Donald Butler and Manti Te'o. Conner is capable within his sphere of competence, but he's barely a Dixie Cup's worth of water in terms of stopping the conflagration that broke out in the Chargers' secondary last season.

The Giants' reclamation project of inside linebacker Jon Beason was one of their few success stories in a lost 2013 season. However, it in no way warranted dropping a $19 million contract on a tremendously injury-prone and inconsistent player.

KC nabbed Joe Mays to step in for the (presumably) departed Akeem Jordan. If you're going to sign a 2 down thumper, do it when you're able to play him next to an all-everything stallion like Derrick Johnson.

Cornerbacks

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Darrelle Revis TB NE 1 $12 TBD $12 $5.2 -$6.8
Brent Grimes MIA MIA 4 $32 $16 $8 $6.2 -$1.8
Nolan Carroll MIA PHI 2 $5.2 TBD $2.6 $3 $0.4
Corey Graham BAL BUF 4 $16 TBD $4 $2.1 -$1.9
Tracy Porter OAK WAS 1 $- TBD $- $1.3 $1.3

Darrelle Revis is the cornerback position's lead headline-grabber, and no one else is going to grab top billing when he's on the move. One of the few players who can single-handedly impact the balance of power in a conference, Revis is one of the few players who can improve on Aqib Talib's early-season shutdown performance. Revis is moving from Cro-Magnon to Copernicus in terms of coaching sophistication, so expect his unique skillset to make a major impact on the Pats' 2014 fortunes.

Brent Grimes (who should have been included in the day one piece) re-upped with the Dolphins with a deal that looks good if you consider his 2011 and 2013 performances and ignore his 2012 injury and the ironclad no defensive free agents over 30 rule ... which, again, is ironclad for a reason. While this deal is unlikely to look good on the back end for the Dolphins, Grimes still looks to be on top of his game and should turn in a strong 2014 performance.

The Eagles look to have made a quality acquisition in former Dolphin Nolan Carroll. While he may not challenge for a starting job, he's proven competent over the last few seasons and should serve as a quality substitute on the perimeter when called upon.

A fairly stout Bills defense added another quality piece in Corey Graham - while he'd be pricey as a pure reserve, Graham was a plus defender in a rotational role in Baltimore and should be capable of stepping in to an outside role opposite Stephon Gilmore if need be.

Safeties

Old Team New Team Years Total Contract Amount Total Guaranteed Money Average Annual Value 2011-2013 Dollar Value Performance Average Past Performance Surplus
Jairus Byrd BUF NO 6 $54 $28 $9 $7.7 -$1.3
Donte Whitner SF CLE 4 $28 TBD $7 $2.1 -$4.9
Antoine Bethea IND SF 4 $26 TBD $6.5 $2.9 -$3.6
Michael Mitchell CAR PIT 5 $25 TBD $5 $2.5 -$2.5
T.J. Ward CLE DEN 4 $23 $14 $5.8 $4.6 -$1.2
Malcolm Jenkins NO PHI 3 $16.3 $8.5 $5.4 $1.1 -$4.3
Stevie Brown NYG NYG 1 TBD TBD TBD $2.7 TBD
Husain Abdullah KC KC 2 TBD TBD TBD $0.4 TBD

While there wasn't any real movement in the safety market during days two and three of free agency, the above chart now features the DVP performace of the guys signed on day one. Outside of Jarius Byrd and T.J. Ward (both high-quality players whose DVP averages are depressed by time lost to injury), DVP doesn't look too kindly on the Day One signings at the safety spot. To be fair, the DVP formula treats run-game performance as something of an afterthought, but then again, so does the modern NFL as a whole.

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