Indianapolis Colts sign OLB Erik Walden

It’s not often I hate a contract that isn’t worth a ton of money, but I hate this 16 million dollar deal the Colts gave to Erik Walden, over 4 years. They apparently view Walden as a cost effective option at rush linebacker opposite Robert Mathis, but he’s not a starting caliber player at all. Pressed into action due to injuries in each of the last two years in Green Bay, Walden ended up grading out as ProFootballFocus’ worst rated 3-4 outside linebacker by a wide margin in each of the two seasons, despite never being a full-time starter. The Colts have got to be kidding themselves if they think he can start for this team next year. They would have been much better off drafting someone at pick #24. It won’t surprise me at all if Walden struggles and gets benched for Jerry Hughes mid-season.

Grade: F

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Indianapolis Colts sign OT Gosder Cherilus

I actually thought Cherilus would be a nice value signing this off-season. Much maligned in his first 4 years in Detroit, Cherilus got healthy this year and actually graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 8th rated offensive tackle. I’m always wary of guys who underachieve and then break out in their contract year, but it’s very possible that the procedure he had on his knee corrected the issue and that he’d continue to be an above average right tackle long term. I also thought he was undervalued because of his history and that he was never as bad when healthy in his first 4 years in the league as he was made out to be.

However, I did a complete double take when I saw what the Colts gave him. He got 34 million over 5 years with 10 million of that as a guaranteed signing bonus. That’s too much money for a right tackle and way too much for one with Cherilus’ history. I don’t know who else would have given him this much money and it was an obvious overpay.

Grade: D

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Miami Dolphins sign MLB Dannell Ellerbe

This was the one move that came completely out of nowhere. Middle linebacker wasn’t a need of the Dolphins’. Sure, Karlos Dansby was getting older, but he still played at a very high level and cutting him and giving Dannell Ellerbe even more money makes absolutely no sense. Dansby was owed about 15 million over the final two seasons of his deal, including just 6 million this year. Ellerbe signed for 5 years, 35 million.

Dansby was ProFootballFocus’ 13th ranked middle linebacker last year and Ellerbe was their 14th ranked, but Dansby is also a much more proven player than Ellerbe, a bit of a one year wonder. His 667 regular seasons snaps from this season were a career high and this is also the first time he ever graded out at an above league average level, struggling mightily in limited action in his first three years in the league. The Ravens supposedly valued him higher than anyone, especially with a massive need at middle linebacker, and it’s really telling that their offer didn’t even come close to matching Miami’s. Who were they bidding against? It seems like they’re burning money just to make a splash.

Grade: F

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Chicago Bears sign OT Jermon Bushrod

Jermon Bushrod was someone I felt would get overpaid and sure enough he did. Bushrod may be a two-time Pro-Bowler, but that’s more to the credit of Drew Brees’ quick release and pocket presence and the how overall uneducated the Pro-Bowl voting public is. Bushrod may have two Pro-Bowl appearances, but has never been close to being voted an All-Pro by the writers, who tend to be much more tuned in to the game than common fans. That shows they don’t value him much.

The Saints also don’t value him much as they were content to let him leave. Drew Brees has one of the quickest releases in the NFL and some of the best pocket presence. The Saints don’t value the left tackle position as much for that reason and I think that’s smart of them. Bushrod has made 68 starts over the last 4 seasons, including the post-season, and has allowed just 20 sacks, including 11 in his last 3 seasons, but he’s also allowed 205 combined hits and hurries. He’s really a middling talent that Drew Brees made look better than he is.

While it’s true the Bears had a massive need at tackle, their bigger need was at right tackle. Ironically, as maligned as J’Marcus Webb is, he was ProFootballFocus’ 47th ranked offensive tackle this year and Bushrod was just 44th. Both were league average players. While Bushrod’s presence will allow Webb to move to right tackle and fill that massive need, 36 million over 5 years with 17.7 million guaranteed is way too much to pay for a middling talent by a team that didn’t need offensive tackle help as direly as people thought.

Grade: D

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Minnesota Vikings re-sign FB Jerome Felton

This was one of the really good signing of the days. Felton was an integral part in Adrian Peterson’s near record setting season and he is one of the best fullbacks in the game, ranking 5th at his position on ProFootballFocus. I was expecting him to exceed Vonta Leach’s 3 year, 11 million dollar contract from 2 off-seasons ago so credit the Vikings for locking him up for 7.5 million over 3 years.

Grade: A

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Kansas City Chiefs sign DL Mike DeVito

Mike DeVito is a nice under the radar signing for the Chiefs. He’s pretty one dimensional, but he’s really good at what he does and that’s tie up blockers on running downs in a 3-4. He’s offers no pass rush, but he was ProFootballFocus’ 7th rated 3-4 defensive end against the run and 3 years, 12.6 million is fairly reasonable for him. The problem is that he and Tyson Jackson are very similar players. Those two should be their starters at five-technique this season, but both should be taken off the field in sub packages so the Chiefs will have to find at least one, if not two, nickel rushing defensive linemen. Someone else has to get to the quarterback other than Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. They can’t do it alone as they ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks and 28th in the NFL on ProFootballFocus at rushing the passer in spite of that talented duo. There will be options for them early in the 3rd round when they pick.

Grade: B

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Seattle Seahawks extend WR Percy Harvin

Yesterday, I went against the convention and went opposed to the Seahawks trading a 1st rounder for Percy Harvin. I felt that a 1st round pick was too much to give up for him for a one year rental and that he wouldn’t be worth the type of money he was expecting on any potential extension. I get into my reasoning more here. However, this contract is less than I was expecting so I like this extension a little more than I like this trade.

Harvin will get 67 million over 6 years with 14.5 million guaranteed. That guaranteed number is a little misleading. They can technically cut him after a year without owing him more money, but another 11 million is guaranteed for injury only. The only reason the Vikings would ever cut Harvin after one season is if he were to get injured and in that case, they’ll have to pay out the extra 11 million, so it’s essentially 25.5 million guaranteed. It’s still an overpay for various reasons I talked about yesterday, but he’s getting less yearly than Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe so it’s not awful. I still think the Vikings ended up winners.

Grade: B

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Baltimore Ravens sign DL Chris Canty

Canty won’t fill the Ravens’ big need upfront at nose tackle, but he’ll provide cheap and valuable depth for them. He played well last year before getting hurt and is probably a better player in a 3-4 than the 4-3 he played in with the Giants anyway. He’ll provide valuable and cheap (3 years, 8 million with 2.8 million guaranteed) depth upfront where the Ravens have two youngsters, Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee, as well as an aging and overworked Haloti Ngata. I don’t love the move or anything, but it’s solid and makes plenty of sense.

Grade: B

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Minnesota Vikings trade WR Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks

Trade for Seattle: I’m going to go away from convention for this one. I don’t like this move. Percy Harvin has very good upside. We’re talking about someone who, over the past 2 years, has 1652 receiving yards on 651 routes run, which is among the most efficient in the NFL. And yes, he was doing that with mediocre quarterback play, but he was also his team’s only option and targeted relentlessly, which won’t be the case in Seattle. He also can’t seem to stay healthy and on the field. He’s never played more than 649 snaps in a season nor does he have a 1000 yard season. He’s got amazing upside and he’s a great fit in Seattle’s offense, but upside is the key word.

I think they overpaid. One of the dumbest arguments I hear is “Percy Harvin is more of a proven player than anyone at they could have taken at 25.” That’s vaguely what NFL Network’s Charles Johnson said on Path to the Draft today and it’s pretty much what a bunch of NFL fans are also saying. Yeah, no shit he’s more proven. They’re rookies. You also aren’t going to have to pay a rookie 60-80 million dollars. That’s what I’m so baffled people don’t understand. It’s not, would you rather have Percy Harvin or Cordarrelle Patterson. It’s would you rather pay Cordarrelle Patterson 7 million over 4 years or Percy Harvin 65 million over 5.

The Seahawks definitely gave up too much for Harvin if they view him as a one year rental, giving up a 1st rounder, a 7th rounder, and a mid-rounder next year (rumored to be a 3rd round pick). It doesn’t sound like that’s the case, but that brings up a different issue, how much are you going to have to pay him? One of the many reasons the Vikings parted ways with Harvin were his unreasonable contract demands. He wanted to be paid close to what Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald were getting and while it doesn’t sound like his rumored extension is going to reach that, he’ll probably end up the 3rd highest paid receiver in the NFL in the 60-65 million dollar range of 5 years and he’s just simply never proven he’s that type of player. It’s a massive risk.

Grade: C

Trade for Minnesota: I think the Vikings were the clear winners here. The last straw with Harvin was when he demanded to be traded because he thought Christian Ponder sucked. There was various other off the field things like that and frankly I don’t think Percy Harvin was a very good teammate in Minnesota. The Vikings got way more for Harvin than was originally predicted and they likely have a deal in place with a veteran receiver like Greg Jennings and they can use either the 23rd or 25th pick on a much cheaper receiver like Cordarrelle Patterson to pair with him.

Ponder’s receiving corps will be better in 2013 than 2012 I believe and the Vikings will be better off in the long run without the headache that Percy Harvin was becoming. He likely would have been gone after next season anyway, if he even had reported this season at all, so the Vikings got a good haul for him considering the circumstances. Would you rather have Percy Harvin for maybe one season (or 2/3 since he’s always hurt) or Cordarrelle Patterson for 4?

Grade: A

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Baltimore Ravens trade WR Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers

Trade for Baltimore: I get that the Ravens were going to cut Anquan Boldin if they couldn’t find a suitor via trade and given that it’s good that they got something for him, but I question the logic of cutting him in the first place. He was just as big a reason why they won the Super Bowl as Joe Flacco and Flacco, who they just signed to a massive long-term deal, took Boldin’s side in negotiating with the Ravens and supported his stand when he was asked to take a pay cut. Flacco knows he owes Boldin a ton. The last thing you want to do is upset your franchise quarterback.

I get that the Ravens needed to clear some cap room, but there were other ways of doing so (his pay cut was only going to clear 2 million, so it’s not like they felt they definitely needed to clear 6 million) and Boldin wasn’t an absolute must get rid of at his scheduled salary. He was worth the 6 million he was owed next season. He didn’t have huge numbers this year, but made some excellent catches, especially in the post-season and really had a huge post-season in general. He’s lost the ability to separate at this point in his career, but he’s never really been able to separate and his ability to make contested catches with excellent hands and body control won’t really get old.

Grade: D

Trade for 49ers: The 49ers were expected to have 15 draft picks after compensatory picks were handed out, including a bunch in the late rounds. Those late rounders were probably going to be practice squad guys at best because of how deep this roster already is, so why not give one up for Boldin? I’ve already established he’s worth his salary this season, but he’ll have a big impact for the 49ers as now inexperienced AJ Jenkins won’t be forced into a starting role on what should be a contending team once again in 2013. Also, Boldin is only under contract one more year so this move won’t hinder their ability to go after Darrelle Revis if they so choose nor will it hinder their ability to extend Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick long-term next off-season.

Grade: A

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