Tennessee Titans sign G Andy Levitre

I have never liked the idea of giving a guard a lot of money, but the Titans desperately needed guard help and Levitre will instantly turn the left guard position into a position of major strength. Plus, Levitre got less money than Davin Joseph (7 years, 52.5 million with 19 million guaranteed), Carl Nicks (5 years, 47.5 million with 31 million guaranteed), and Jahri Evans (7 years, 56.7 million with 12 million guaranteed) over the last few off-seasons.

Levitre got 6 years, 46.8 million with 10.5 million guaranteed. He was ProFootballFocus’ 9th rated guard in 2012 and 6th rated guard in 2011 (despite making 4 of his 16 starts at left tackle) and deserves this type of contract when you compare it to other deals guards have gotten recently. This is a solid deal and it will definitely help Chris Johnson, who needs good blocking to succeed.

Grade: B

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Miami Dolphins sign WR Mike Wallace

It always concerns me when a guy is obviously just chasing money. Wallace held out long into training camp last year rather than play out the final year of his rookie deal and, as a result, he had a poor year by his standards in 2012, with 64 catches for 836 yards and 8 touchdowns despite a career high in targets. He was 34th in the NFL in receiving yards and graded out noticeably below average on ProFootballFocus. It was obvious when he went into that holdout that a down year like that was a possibility, but he didn’t seem to care. He was part of the reason why the Steelers missed the playoffs.

And now he chases the money and goes to Miami, a team with a young quarterback that has made the playoffs just once in the last 11 seasons. It’s very possible he’ll just coast now that he has the money and he’s a one trick pony anyway. He’s got great speed, but he’s still not a good route runner and the NFL has caught on to him over the past 2 seasons. It’s very possible the 1257 yards he had in his breakout 2010 season will be his career best when his career is all said and done. The Dolphins overpaid, giving him 60 million over 5 years with 30 million guaranteed. The guaranteed money goes into his 3rd year, so this is at least a fully 3 year, 37 million dollar deal, unless they want to cut him after 2 years and 30 million.

Grade: C

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Cleveland Browns sign OLB Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger was a very productive pass rusher down the stretch for the Ravens last year with 14 sacks, 14 hits, and 33 hurries in his final 12 games from week 10 on, but he didn’t really do anything until Terrell Suggs came back and had just 1 sack, 3 hits, and 10 hurries in his first 8 games. In his first 3 years in the league, he was just a rotational player at best, though he was very efficient on 373 snaps in 2011. He also doesn’t play the run well and played just 22 of 62 snaps in the Super Bowl as part of the game plan.

I don’t understand how someone that can barely be part of a game plan can get this much money, 41 million over 5 years with 20 million guaranteed. He’s not a primary pass rusher. He’s a secondary pass rusher and needs a good pass rusher opposite him. He doesn’t play the run. And he’s very inexperienced. I suppose it’s possible that he could continue his strong play from the 2nd half of 2012 into 2013 with the Browns and they needed a pass rusher, but they really overpaid.

Grade: C

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Indianapolis Colts sign CB Greg Toler

Injuries have limited Greg Toler to 308 snaps over the last 2 seasons, but the Colts gave him 15 million over 3 years anyway. He’s always played pretty well when healthy and graded out above average on ProFootballFocus this season, on the strength of a game against Detroit in which he didn’t allow a completion on 5 attempts, picked off a pass, and had 3 deflections. If he could ever stay healthy over the course of a full season, he could be a solid starter and the Colts definitely needed cornerback help, but it’s unclear who else would have given him this kind of money to find out if he could ever stay healthy. This looks like an obvious overpay.

Grade: C

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Indianapolis Colts sign G Donald Thomas

Donald Thomas proved that he deserved a starting job in 2013 after playing very well for the Patriots in 7 spot starts in 2012. Despite his limited playing time, he still finished the year as ProFootballFocus’ 17th rated guard. He was a better run blocker than pass protector, but allowed just 1 sack, 2 hits, and 9 hurries, while committing just 3 penalties and he has the versatility to play both guard spots.

The Patriots weren’t going to give him a starting job, but credit the Colts for snatching him up and paying him like a low end starter when he could easily end up being a high end starter if he plays like he did last year. It’s a risk because he’s so inexperienced, but they didn’t give him a lot of money. He was given just 14 million over 4 years and he’ll help out what was the worst offensive line in the league last year in terms of pass block efficiency.

Grade: A

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Miami Dolphins re-sign S Chris Clemons

Clemons is an unheralded player, but he graded out positively both against the run and in coverage last year. He barely played in 2011 and struggled in his first two years in the league after the Dolphins took him in the 5th round of the 2009 NFL Draft, so credit the Dolphins for not committing too much long term to him. With this deal, he’ll have to prove it again and he should once again be an above average starter for the Dolphins for cheap in 2013.

Grade: A

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St. Louis Rams sign TE Jared Cook

Jared Cook was underutilized in Tennessee and put up good per snap numbers as a receiver despite never really having great quarterback play. He has 1718 career receiving yards on 1057 career routes run, a rate of 1.63 yards per route run. For comparison, Owen Daniels had 1.63 yards per route run this season, good for 11th in the NFL.

However, he doesn’t block, which is a big part of the reason why he was only a part-time player in Tennessee and he’s still relatively unproven. The Rams are paying a lot of money to find out if he can be an elite tight end in the right situation, paying him 38.5 million over 5 years with 19 million guaranteed. The Patriots gave Aaron Hernandez, already a proven elite tight end, 40 million over 5 years with less guaranteed money, 16.4 million guaranteed, on his extension last off-season. Hernandez is also younger than Cook.

Even Dustin Keller is a more proven player than Cook and he got just 4.25 million over 1 year from the Dolphins. Keller would have made a lot more sense for the Rams, especially since he would have been reuniting with Brian Schottenheimer. Under Schottenheimer, currently the Rams’ offensive coordinator, Keller had 65 catches for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns in a breakout year with the Jets and Mark Sanchez in 2011. That’s more productive than Cook has ever been.

Grade: D

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Arizona Cardinals sign QB Drew Stanton

I do like the setup of this contract a lot. It’s worth 8.2 million base, but up to 20 million after incentives and only 3 million guaranteed. Basically, if he becomes a starting quarterback for them, he’ll be paid like one and if not, he’ll be paid a reasonable salary for a backup and they can always cut him one year into the deal and not owe him any more guaranteed money if they are dissatisfied.

I just don’t know how much I like Drew Stanton the player. Stanton has had chances to start games and never really impressed, even surrounded by all of that surrounding talent in Detroit. On 187 career attempts, he’s completed 55.6% of his passes for an average of 6.2 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions and it’s not like he’s some young talent waiting to be tapped. He turns 28 next month and while he was a former 2nd round pick, it was in a horrible year for quarterbacks and the track record of non-1st round pick quarterbacks in the NFL is iffy at best.

He’ll make a solid backup, he knows Bruce Arians’ system, he doesn’t break the bank, and the Cardinals may have the most quarterback situation in the NFL but if the Cardinals are expecting him to be a legitimate starter, they’ll probably be disappointed. This should not deter them from restructuring Kevin Kolb’s contract, bringing in someone like Carson Palmer if he becomes available, and/or drafting a quarterback early in the draft, like Geno Smith at 7.

Grade: B

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Denver Broncos sign G Louis Vasquez

I didn’t like a lot of moves today. That’s normally how the first day goes. The desperate teams make the big splash moves and don’t get any better as a result and end up cutting him 2 or 3 years into the deal, while the smart teams let things come to them once the buyers dry up on the later days of free agency and also build through the draft. However, this is one move I really liked.

Vasquez will allow the Broncos to move on from Chris Kuper, who turns 31 in December and is owed 15 million over the next 3 seasons. Kuper isn’t the same player anymore and has suffered three separate major injuries in a calendar year span. Vasquez, meanwhile, was ProFootballFocus 13th ranked guard last season and has been an above average starter in all 4 of his seasons in the league. He should have gotten a lot more than 4 years, 23.5 million with 13 million guaranteed, considering what Andy Levitre got from the Titans. I didn’t see this move coming, but at that price, why not bring him in?

Grade: A

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Tennessee Titans sign TE Delanie Walker

I really didn’t think anyone would sign Delanie Walker other than the 49ers. Because of his specific role in their system, he was more valuable to them as a 2nd tight end than to anyone else. Apparently the Titans disagreed as they outbid the 49ers for him and will pay him like a starter, giving him 4 years, 17.5 million with 8.6 million guaranteed. He’s a very good blocker, but his 11 drops to 26 catches last year were by far the worst in the league and they will be very disappointed if they expect him to replace Jared Cook. They’ll have to hope 2nd year player Taylor Thompson catches on as a pass catching complement to Walker because Walker is pretty much just a blocker.

Grade: C

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