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NFL free agent grades: 49ers sign Phil Dawson, David Carr returns

It wasn't the craziest day in NFL free agency history, but the Niners hoped to make their kicking situation a little less unstable with the signing of Dawson.

Tyler Barrick

Tuesday continued the current lull in the NFL free agency period, as nothing that can be considered too major went down across the league. While much of the focus is on the owner's meetings in Arizona, rumors about bigger things in the future continue to swirl.

For one, the Houston Texans reportedly offered free-agent safety Ed Reed a three-year contract. For another, the New York Jets may or may not have an interest in free-agent quarterback Kevin Kolb. High-profile names -- Kolb not included -- remain out there; there's just nothing too concrete attached to said names.

For Tuesday, though, let's go through the day's moves and assign them a letter grade, because who doesn't love school? Or grades? Okay, well, you like making snap judgments, right? Right. So onto the grades.

Seeking reliability, Niners sign Phil Dawson

Free-agent kicker Phil Dawson tweeted news Tuesday that he would be signing with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2012, San Francisco dealt with a rather inconsistent year from placekicker David Akers. The veteran made only 29 of his 42 attempts, a 69-percent clip, leading the Niners to sign Billy Cundiff as a backup plan prior to the start of the postseason.

Dawson, on the other hand, has spent his entire 14-year career with the Cleveland Browns. He connected on 29 of 31 field goal attempts in 2012, compiling the second-most points (116) in a season over his career. Opportunities have occasionally been scarce in the past for Dawson in Cleveland, but he hasn't hit less than 80 percent of his kicks since 2006.

Overall, it seems that the 49ers had to do something after the season they just endured with Akers. Dawson is a consistent option, though possibly only a short-term one.

Grade: B

David Carr returns to the Giants

Backup quarterback David Carr will stay with the New York Giants, according to USA Today's Mike Garafolo. He hasn't seen much playing time since rejoining the team in 2011 and, more importantly, playing behind Eli Manning. However, the former top overall draft pick may have opted for familiarity over anything else. Also, the opportunity for the chance to play more somewhere else may not have materialized.

Terms of the contract are unknown at this point, but Carr has been around New York for a good amount of time, probably knows the playbook pretty well and, hey, change is good but sometimes stability is better. Also, Curtis Painter?

Grade: C+ (what's the highest possible grade for backup quarterbacks?)

Brad Meester stays with the Jaguars

Veteran center Brad Meester agreed to a new one-year contract on Tuesday with the only NFL team he's played for over his entire career, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Meester has played in every regular-season game for the Jaguars since 2008.

The 35-year-old center brings a stable, veteran presence to a youthful Jacksonville offense. Even if he's getting older, experience is still a helpful thing to have, and it seems as though the Jaguars brought a good, reliable guy back for that very reason.

Grade: B-

Dolphins retain a pair of linemen in Starks, Garner

The Miami Dolphins brought back offensive lineman Nate Garner and defensive lineman Randy Starks on Tuesday, ensuring some continuity across their front-lines heading into the 2013 season.

Starks, a two-time Pro Bowler, signed a franchise tender according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which assures his standing in Miami through the 2013 season but also leaves the door open for a potential longer-term extension with the Dolphins before that. In 2012, Starks registered 4.5 sacks, an interception and four passes defensed.

Garner, on the other hand, becomes that much more important of a re-signing after Jake Long agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Rams earlier this week. A versatile lineman for the Dolphins, Garner at least gives Miami options and familiarity as they look to continue rebuilding their offensive line.

Grade: A-

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