Miami Dolphins sign WR Greg Jennings

The Vikings signed Jennings to a 5-year, 45 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago, expecting to get the guy who had 3 seasons of 1000 yards or more in Green Bay. However, Jennings wasn’t able to come close to those numbers without Aaron Rodgers, averaging 64 catches for 773 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2 seasons in Minnesota. He’s now going into his age 32 season and hasn’t had a 1000+ yard season since 2010. He also hasn’t graded out in the top-40 among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus since 2011. He’s an aging, declining, marginal player.

The Vikings cut Jennings to save 9 million in cash and 5 million in cap space this off-season. The Dolphins are getting him much cheaper, 8 million over 2 years, with nothing guaranteed beyond the first year. It’s an appropriate value for him, but usually teams get better than appropriate values for players this late in the off-season. It’s not a bad deal, but considering the younger Michael Crabtree got just 3 million over 1 year, I was a little surprised to see Jennings got this much at this stage of the off-season. He’ll fill in a need in Miami as the 3rd receiver behind Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry, but this signing won’t preclude the Dolphins from using an early pick on a receiver in the draft.

Grade: B

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Baltimore Ravens extend CB Jimmy Smith

This was originally reported to be a 4-year, 48 million dollar deal, but that’s not entirely accurate. Smith’s contract is worth 48 million, but that’s including the 6.9 million dollar player option he has for 2015. This contract is actually “only” worth 41.1 million in new money over 4 years. That’s an average of 10.275 million annually in new money, good for 6th highest in the NFL among cornerbacks. Smith is guaranteed 21 million over the first 2 years of the deal, including a 13 million dollar signing bonus, and has non-guaranteed salaries of 8.5 million, 9 million, and 9.5 million in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Simply put, it’s a lot of money. As I mentioned, it’s the 6th most expensive contract in terms of average annual salary among cornerbacks in the NFL. Smith has played like that at times. A 1st round pick in 2011, Smith moved into the starting lineup in 2012, after impressing on 256 snaps as a rookie, and has improved in every season as a starter, grading out 112th (2nd worst in the NFL) in 2012, 35th in 2013, and 20th in 2014. He was even better than that suggests in 2012 as he did that on 476 snaps, missing 8 games with a foot injury. Through the first 7 games of the season, before his injury, he was Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked cornerback, including 4th in pure coverage grade, allowing 51.3% completion and 4.18 yards per attempt on 39 attempts.

The Ravens are obviously banking that Smith continues developing into one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, going into his age 27 season. That certainly could happen, but this deal seems to have way more downside than upside. Best case scenario, Smith becomes one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and the Ravens are paying him appropriately. But there’s also a strong chance that Smith never really consistently shows top level ability or gets hurt again (he’s missed 17 games in 4 seasons in the NFL). It’s not a terrible deal, but it is an overpay by a team that already has a bunch of large contracts on their books going forward.

Grade: C+

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Jacksonville Jaguars sign C Stefen Wisniewski

Stefen Wisniewski, a 2011 2nd round pick, has made 61 starts over the past 4 years for the Raiders. After struggling out of position at guard as a rookie, Wisniewski graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th, 11th, and 22nd ranked center in 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively, which means that he’s been an average starter. Only going into his age 26 season, the only reason Wisniewski was available so late into free agency was because he had off-season shoulder surgery. However, I always thought that whichever team ended up signing him was going to get a great value on a starter.

Credit the Jaguars for being that team, signing him to a 1-year, 2.5 million dollar deal. He’s fills a significant need inside at center as the Jaguars were forced to start 6th round rookie Luke Bowanko at center last season. He predictably struggled, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 29th ranked center out of 41 eligible. Bowanko might still have long-term upside as a starter, but Wisniewski is an immediate upgrade.

Grade: A

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New England Patriots re-sign WR Danny Amendola

This move was made last month, but I didn’t originally grade it because I thought it was just a pure pay cut. I don’t grade pure pay cuts because there’s no downside for a team involved so it’s a pretty boring grade. However, it does appear that Amendola was given some guarantees as part of this restructure, whereas originally he didn’t have any money guaranteed in any of the final 3 years of his contract, so there is some evaluating to be done.

This deal is worth a maximum of 14.25 million over 3 years, but it can essentially be seen as a 1-year, 2.25 million dollar prove it deal as there isn’t anything guaranteed beyond the first year. In fact, all that’s guaranteed is a 500K signing bonus, though it seems like a fairly safe bet that Amendola will be in New England in 2015 as the #3 receiver behind Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell and collecting around 2.25 million (some of that money is in the form of per game roster bonuses so it’s possible it could be slightly less). However, if he continues to struggle, the Patriots can get out of the remaining 2 years and 12 million of the contract after the season without owing him anything more.

Amendola was signed by the Patriots to a 5-year, 28.5 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago to be the long-term replacement for Wes Welker. That didn’t happen, though fortunately for the Patriots, Julian Edelman became what they were expecting Amendola to become. Amendola missed 4 games with injury in 2013 and, though he played all 16 games in 2014, he struggled mightily overall. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 93rd ranked wide receiver out of 110 eligible on 466 snaps.

He did play well down the stretch though, catching 27 passes for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns in the final 7 games of the season, including the playoffs. That gave the Patriots hope that Amendola could bounce back in 2015 and become the player who averaged 2.04 yards per route run in 2012 with the Rams, which is why they gave him this new deal. It’s a long shot for a guy who is already going into his age 30 season and who has an extensive injury history, but this isn’t a terrible deal. This restructure saves them more on the cap than an outright cut would have, as a cut would have saved them 2.1 million, while this saves them 2.5 million, at least for 2015. If they cut him next off-season, 2.73 million of dead money will be added to their cap for 2016, but the Patriots are still in win now mode with a soon to be 38-year-old quarterback so it makes sense in that sense.

Grade: B

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New York Jets sign RB Stevan Ridley

This is definitely a solid value for Ridley, as he’ll only make 1.25 million in 2015, with just 80K guaranteed. Ridley, a 2011 3rd round pick, rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns on 290 carries (4.36 YPC) in his 2nd year in the league in 2012. He comes cheap for a reason though, as, in the two seasons since, he’s rushed for 1113 yards and 9 touchdowns on 272 carries (4.09 YPC). He’s also coming off of a torn ACL he suffered midway through last season. On top of that, he’s useless as a pass catcher, with 23 catches in 52 career games and has 9 career fumbles on 672 career touches. Still, he’s a solid buy low candidate at this price.

However, he’s a weird fit in New York for two reasons. For one, he’s a very similar player to Chris Ivory, a powerful between the tackles runner and little else, with little agility or pass catching ability. He won’t be a passing down upgrade on the limited Bilal Powell nor will he be a good change of pace back to Ivory. Two, the Jets’ offensive coordinator is Chan Gailey, who prefers quicker, smaller running backs who can do things in space, like he had in Buffalo with CJ Spiller. The Jets don’t have anyone who fits that mold as Ridley and Ivory are purely downhill runners and Powell is a mediocre talent.

This signing doesn’t preclude the Jets from drafting a speedy running back on day 2 of the draft. I currently have them taking Duke Johnson from Miami. It’s possible that Ridley and Ivory are fighting for one roster spot. I expect Ivory, who was Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked running back in pure running grade in 2014, to win that battle (at least I hope he would) so it’s very possible that Ridley gets cut before the season starts. In that sense, it could prove to be a wasted signing, but, with just 80K guaranteed, he’s worth the flier, as he long as he doesn’t cause the Jets to cut the talented Ivory.

Grade: B+

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Miami Dolphins re-sign QB Matt Moore

Moore only attempted 29 passes over the past 3 seasons combined in Miami as Ryan Tannehill has made 48 straight starts to begin his career, but he wasn’t horrible in his last extended playing time in 2011, completing 60.5% of his passes for an average of 7.20 YPA, 16 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He graded out 13th among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus that season. The fact that he hasn’t played much in the last 3 seasons hurts him, but he’s only going into his age 31 season and I’m kind of surprised he didn’t draw interest on the open market as a stopgap starter. He’s better than Josh McCown, who got 6.25 million guaranteed from the Browns.

The Browns’ loss is the Dolphins’ gain as they were able to keep Moore as a backup for only 2.6 million over 1 year. He made 8 million over the past 2 years to be the backup quarterback so this is significantly cheaper. The Dolphins obviously are hoping that Moore won’t have to make a start for them this season as Ryan Tannehill as developed into a franchise quarterback, but, if Tannehill does get hurt, they’ll be in capable hands with Moore as their backup.

Grade: A

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Detroit Lions trade DE George Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Johnson was originally given an original pick tender by the Lions this off-season, which gave them the right of first refusal. The Buccaneers signed Johnson to a 3-year, 9 million dollar deal, which the Lions matched in a sign and trade that sends a 5th rounder to Detroit and a 7th rounder to Tampa Bay. Johnson is the definition of a one-year wonder. A 2010 undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, Johnson played a combined 155 snaps in his first 4 seasons in the NFL, spending time on both the Buccaneers’ and the Vikings’ rosters, not recording a single sack, and not playing a single snap in 2013. Detroit signed him as a camp body last off-season and he ended up not just making the final roster, but recording his first 7 sacks of his career.

The Buccaneers are banking that Johnson (who was signed off their practice squad by the Vikings in 2012) is more of a late bloomer than a one-year wonder, signing him to this 3-year, 9 million dollar deal and swapping a 5th rounder for a 7th rounder. Before this signing, the Buccaneers top defensive ends were the likes of Jacquies Smith, William Gholston, Lawrence Sidbury, and Larry English so Johnson has a clear path to a starting role and should surpass the 502 snaps he played last season with a new career high.

However, it’s obviously a risky deal as Johnson is already going into his age 28 season and, even in the best season of his career last year, Johnson still only graded out slightly above average on Pro Football Focus, obviously playing well as a pass rusher in a situational role, but struggling against the run. The transition to being an every down player could be tough for him even if he doesn’t regress. The Buccaneers aren’t betting a ton of money as this deal is worth 3 million annually and doesn’t have any money guaranteed after the first year and the Buccaneers arguably need edge rushers more than any other team in the NFL, but I’m also not surprised the Lions, who also have a need at 4-3 defensive end, let him go.

Grade for Tampa Bay: B-

Grade for Detroit: B

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]