The 2015 NFL Draft is a thing of the past and while free agency will remain open, most teams have their 90-man rosters set heading into the summer. Veterans and rookies will compete for roster spots in training camp and through the preseason, but we've got a chunk of time until all of that gets underway. So what can we do? Grade things, of course!
We've had free agency grades and NFL Draft grades, and now is the time to look at full offseason grades. Teams can entirely change their fortunes on the back of one or two moves in a single offseason, for better or for worse. Sure, it's less likely that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make the playoffs than the New England Patriots will miss it, but fortunes can change quickly.
Over at ESPN, they handed out grades for each team's offseason, with several intriguing ones worth singling out. Three teams finished with an A-minus or above, 20 teams received some kind of B and eight received some kind of C. One team received a D-plus, and that's where we're going to start.
Did the 49ers actually have the worst offseason?
The short version: Yes.
The longer version: Of course they did. ESPN gave the 49ers a D-plus, the only grade lower than a C. The 49ers had such a poor, destructive offseason that ESPN couldn't justify them only being one mark away from the other teams on the list. A C-minus was actively giving the 49ers too much credit, so they were bumped down to a D-plus.
You can't blame the 49ers for Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith all retiring, but that doesn't make the offseason any better. Willis, one of the top linebackers in the NFL, retired to take a new path in his life. Borland, one year into a promising-looking career, cited safety concerns before hanging up the cleats.
Smith has more than a decade in the league and his retirement was always something the 49ers knew was a possibility. To San Francisco's credit, it did seem to work to find Smith's replacement in the draft with the selection of Arik Armstead. But Armstead isn't likely to contribute in his rookie season. In fact, despite all of the losses this offseason, most of San Francisco's draft picks don't figure to be contributors as rookies.
The 49ers also replaced Jim Harbaugh, one of the most immediately successful head coaches in NFL history. Though the 49ers want you to believe it was a mutual parting of ways, we all know that's not true. They replaced Harbaugh with Jim Tomsula, their former defensive line coach and a first-time head coach in the NFL. The 49ers also lost Chris Culliver, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati and Perrish Cox, among others.
Torrey Smith and Darnell Dockett were good pickups -- our own free agency recap highlighted the addition of Smith and Dockett -- and the 49ers still have a talented roster, so seeing them be competitive wouldn't be shocking by any means. Nevertheless, with all the departures and a draft class that seemed to look more toward future seasons, this is absolutely the worst offseason from any team this year.
What about the best offseason?
Three teams received A-minus or better grades: Washington, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets. The first two earned A-minuses, while the Jets are alone at the top with the sole A grade. ESPN says they were the only team to get an A-plus grade from an individual voter as well.
The Jets should be in good hands with new head coach Todd Bowles, and getting Leonard Williams at No. 6 overall was probably a dream come true for Bowles, a former defensive coordinator. Williams, considered the top player in the 2015 class by many, was probably the safest pick in the draft. The Jets received high marks for their draft haul, but their moves went far beyond a strong class that includes Williams and quarterback Bryce Petty.
They also landed playmaker Darrelle Revis in free agency and traded for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Revis and Marshall are both big-time names, and with solid value pickups like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets are riding high.
Our free agency recap suggested that both the Jets and the rival Miami Dolphins made strides in closing the gap on the Patriots this offseason, so a sound draft on top of that means we definitely agree with ESPN in ranking them highly.
As for other ESPN's other top-ranked offseason teams, Washington drafted well with players like Brandon Scherff and Matt Jones highlighting the class. The Packers typically like to build through the draft, and that's reflected by the fact that they lost 12 players in free agency and didn't really add anybody. But they did draft multiple big-name players like Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and Brett Hundley.
How about the defending champs?
The New England Patriots have had the rare struggle here and there over the years, but they're usually described as one of the best managed organizations in the NFL. That said, ESPN gave the Patriots a C grade, among the worst teams in the league (save for the 49ers). ESPN also claimed that DeflateGate and the punishments from it do not actually factor into the grades.
The most notable departures are running back Shane Vereen and cornerback Darrelle Revis. They both left in free agency, and ESPN says they were both vital to the Patriots' Super Bowl run. But no other non-DeflateGate reasons were given for the low grade, and ESPN mentioned that you can't overlook losing Tom Brady for four games. Whatever the case, the official reason for the low grade is the dwindling secondary. The Patriots did little to replace Revis or the other cornerbacks -- Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Brandon Browner -- who departed.
While ESPN was ultimately tough on the Patriots, they graded out well with multiple B grades from around the Internet, including a B-minus from SB Nation.
As for the team who lost the Super Bowl last season -- the Seattle Seahawks made out with a B-plus for their offseason. Plenty of people were down on their draft, which isn't surprising given the lack of a first-round pick. Seattle gave that pick to the Saints in a trade for Jimmy Graham, the most productive tight end in the NFL, so it still managed to be a solid offseason move. As far as the coaching staff is concerned, the Seahawks quickly replaced Dan Quinn by slotting Kris Richard into the role of defensive coordinator. We thought Seattle had a rough go at the NFL Draft for not replacing center Max Unger, who was part of the Graham trade. It's still unclear who the Seahawks will start at the position.