Senior Writer

Makeover grades: Boldness doesn't guarantee success


I do not think free agency is the way to build a football team.

Draft and develop -- and then re-sign -- is the way to go.

But I understand that you can supplement your roster by landing a few free agents. Going crazy usually doesn't produce the results some expect, and instead is usually a sign of problems on your team.

So I am not going to get as nutty about the Philadelphia Eagles as most everybody else is right now. Yes, they've had a great first week of free agency, but you don't win titles in August.

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Let's see how the talent meshes. Let's see if everybody stays healthy.

The Eagles deserve of a lot of credit for being bold. Give them an "A" for what they've done the past week, but don't fit them for rings just yet.

Here's a look at how each of the 32 teams have done in free agency so far.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have done a great job. They landed their franchise quarterback -- at least in their eyes -- by trading to get Kevin Kolb. They gave up a talented corner in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to get him, but they thought he was expendable because he wasn't as focused as he should be. They replaced Rodgers-Cromartie with Richard Marshall, who should be their nickel back behind Patrick Peterson and Greg Toler. I really like the move to get tight end Todd Heap, who went to college at nearby Arizona State. Ken Whisenhunt finally has a tight end who can make an impact in the passing game. I like the moves to land middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, defensive tackle Nick Eason and guard Daryn Colledge. The Cardinals did a nice job -- especially if Kolb proves to be a good player. Grade: A

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons had two big issues coming out of the 2010 season. One was a lack of big plays in the passing game, which they remedied in the draft with Julio Jones. The other was getting the quarterback on the ground. See Aaron Rodgers in the playoff loss to the Packers. Signing Ray Edwards will help fix that. They don't expect him to be 14-sack player, but more like a 7-10 sack player. Getting back right tackle Tyson Clabo and left guard Justin Blalock were big moves for line stability. They also brought back linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Mike Peterson. They did lose right guard Harvey Dahl, a mauler, and punter Michael Koenen. Grade: B

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens big move was keeping tackle Marshall Yanda. Losing him would have been a big hit. They also kept corner Chris Carr. But they lost Heap to Arizona when he was released for cap reasons. Nose tackle Kelly Gregg went to Kansas City, safety Dawan Landry went to Jacksonville and guard Chris Chester went to Washington. Adding Vonta Leach with a big-money deal for a fullback was a strange move, especially for a team that plans to throw it more. Grade: C

Buffalo Bills: They lost middle linebacker Paul Posluszny to Jacksonville and replaced him with a cheaper version in Nick Barnett. That won't be as big a hit as you think. They added Brad Smith to play receiver and help the return game. I'm OK with that. They also re-signed corner Drayton Florence, which they wanted to do. But there wasn't a lot here. They seem to be content building with young players. Grade: D

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers took care of their own players, which I salute. They gave end Charles Johnson a huge contract ($72 million for six years) and also re-signed linebackers Thomas Davis and James Anderson. And they gave running back DeAngleo Williams a big deal to return. They overpaid him, but their reasoning was because they wanted two backs to take the heat off the young quarterback. They did pay too much for Olindo Mare, but they wanted a new kicker. Adding defensive tackle Ron Edwards fills a need. Grade: B+

Chicago Bears: The Bears didn't get any Julius Peppers-type of big-ticket free agent, but they did land some bodies that could help without spending a ton of money. They got running back Marion Barber and receiver Roy Williams, two Cowboys castoffs. Barber could help as a backup runner, while Williams might be rejuvenated playing for Mike Martz again. They made a good move by adding center Chris Spencer when they didn't re-sign Olin Kreutz. Chicago couldn't spend like they did when they landed Peppers, but they did pick up some potentially good additions and a new punter in Adam Podlesh. The key loss is safety Danieal Manning, who went to Houston. Grade: C

Cincinnati Bengals: Most would drop their grade down for not trading Carson Palmer. I commend them. Let him sit. They suffered a big hit by letting corner Johnathan Joseph leave to Houston. They replaced him with Nate Clements, but that's a step down in talent. They also added Manny Lawson to play linebacker, but he has been a 3-4 rush guy and must now play 4-3 outside linebacker. Linebacker Thomas Howard is expected to start after coming over from Oakland. Running back Cedric Benson was re-signed and should start. He's a grinder, not much else. Grade: C-

Cleveland Browns: It's clear that Mike Holmgren is patient in turning this team around. He didn't spend much at all in free agency. They added guard John Greco, corner Usama Young and running back Brandon Jackson. None was a starter for his team last year. They let corner Eric Wright go to Detroit, but didn't lose much else. They did sign corner Dimitri Patterson, who started nine games for the Eagles last season. It's hard to grade them because of the inactivity, but it has to be a low grade for what they did. Why not try and add a pass rusher? Grade: D

Dallas Cowboys: Their biggest moves were re-signing tackle Doug Free, guard Kyle Kosier, defensive end Marcus Spears and safety Gerald Sensabaugh. They missed out on paying top dollar for Nnamdi Asomugha, so they will stay with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins on the corners. They spent to take care of their own, and didn't lose anybody they really wanted to keep. They also cleaned out some dead weight in Williams and Barber. Grade: B-

Denver Broncos: They brought in a lot of new bodies, but how many of them can play? There are draft busts (Derrick Harvey) and older players (Ty Warren and Willis McGahee) among the group. They did make a couple of decent moves by trading to get defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley from the Eagles and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon from the Redskins. The tackle spot was woefully thin. They considered trading Kyle Orton, but it now looks like he will be their quarterback. Grade: D

Detroit Lions: I kept hearing from Lions fans complaining about the team not spending money. Be patient. This is a team being built with young players. I do like the moves to give Wright and linebackers Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch small deals to sign. They all could be starters. They also brought back starting corner Chris Houston, who had a decent season in 2010. Receiver Rashied Davis offers depth. Grade: C+

Green Bay Packers: General manager Ted Thompson isn't a big believer in free agency. He showed it again this year. The Packers made some small moves, but nothing major. They did suffer a few hits, like losing Cullen Jenkins to the Eagles. But Thompson believes in replacing through the draft, not spending to fix it. They did re-sign third receiver James Jones, but only at a decent deal for the team. They also re-signed fullback John Kuhn. Grade: C+

Houston Texans: I loved the moves to add Joseph and Manning. They will give the Texans some good coverage skills in the back end, something they lacked in a big way last year. The secondary should be much improved. Losing Leach isn't the hit some would make you think. They replaced him with Lawrence Vickers, a cheaper version. Hey, it's just a fullback. Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts: The key move was signing Peyton Manning to a long-term deal that enabled them to keep Joseph Addai. Manning will likely finish his career with the Colts now and his contract won't be a distraction. Addai fits with what they do, so it made sense to bring him back. They also re-signed defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, kicker Adam Vinatieri and safety Melvin Bullitt. The additions of Ernie Sims, Tommie Harris and Jamal Anderson for small deals could prove to be worth the risk. Releasing corner Kevin Hayden could set them back. Grade: B+

Jacksonville Jaguars: It was all about defense for the Jaguars. They signed linebacker Paul Posluszny, Clint Session and safety Dawan Landry. All three will help upgrade a defense that was horrible last season. The Jaguars weren't good against the pass in 2010, and Posluszny and Landry aren't great in coverage. They have to show they can be better in space. That makes them both a bit risky. Drew Coleman should be the nickel corner. They did lose Podlesh and had to replace him with veteran Matt Turk. Grade: B-

Kansas City Chiefs: Many expected the Chiefs to be big players with a lot of cap room, but they were not. Their big-ticket item was receiver Steve Breaston, who will be the starter opposite Dwayne Bowe. Breaston re-unites with coach Todd Haley, who coached him in Arizona. Linebacker Brandon Siler will push for a starting job and re-signing pass rusher Wallace Gilberry and Casey Wiegmann made sense. They also signed Gregg to replace Edwards. But he is 34. Fullback Le'Ron McClain was also signed. The lack of activity is a surprise to some since they had money to spend, but GM Scott Pioli is big on the draft. Grade: C-

Miami Dolphins: The big splash was trading for Reggie Bush. He will add a pass-catching dynamic to their offense. He can also liven up the return game. I like the move. Some of their other moves ... not so much. Jason Taylor hasn't been good for three years. Right tackle Marc Colombo was a turnstile last year in Dallas, and he is penciled in to start. Linebacker Kevin Burnett will be an upgrade over Channing Crowder. I did like that they didn't trade for a quarterback. Any deal would have simply been a short-term fix. Let Chad Henne play. If he fails, go into the draft in 2012 and get one. Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings made a big move trading to get Donovan McNabb, although I would have let Christian Ponder play. McNabb is a temporary fix. They lost receiver Sidney Rice to the Seahawks, so that will sting. But they did sign Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins to help offset that. They also signed Remi Ayodele from the Saints. The big move was McNabb, which is how this class will ultimately be graded. Grade: C-

New England Patriots: They made some big splashes by trading for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and receiver Chad Ochocinco. I like the Haynesworth move. Bill Belichick will keep him motivated. He will play well -- at least for a year. I didn't really love the Ochocinco move. He doesn't run well, and they needed speed. They did a good job keeping guard Logan Mankins and tackle Matt Light. If only they could have added a pass rusher. Grade: B

New Orleans Saints: They've been very active and have made some good moves to keep their own. They overpaid to keep safety Roman Harper, but he's their guy. They also made sure to keep left tackle Jermon Bushrod, linebacker Scott Shanle and receiver Lance Moore. They added a good tackle in Aubrayo Franklin on a one-year deal and veteran corner Fabian Washington. Keeping tackle Zach Strief means they will have their short-yardage tight end on the roster. They did trade Reggie Bush to the Dolphins for little to nothing. But they replaced him with Darren Sproles, who can do a lot of the same things. Losing center Jonathan Goodwin is a risk. They will now go with Matt Tennant. Grade: B

New York Giants: The Giants let veteran offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert go to open free agency. They signed center David Baas (49ers) to take over for O'Hara. The Giants lost defensive tackle Barry Cofield to the Redskins, but signed Gabe Watson to take his place. They also signed tight end Ben Patrick in case they lose Kevin Boss. Getting running back Ahmad Bradshaw back is a big deal. They did also bring back pass rusher Mathias Kiwanuka. They also signed a new punter in Steve Weatherford, if that excites you. Grade: C

New York Jets: The Jets overpaid to keep Santonio Holmes, but he is a good player. They have to be concerned that he could face a season-long suspension with another misstep. They tried to get Nnamdi Asomugha, but failed. That led them to bring back Antonio Cromartie at corner. He isn't in the same class. He gambles too much. But he can play the man coverage the Jets love. Landing Plaxico Burress was a headline grabber, but it's not really a great move. He is 34 and not fast. That move was way overrated. They did lose Brad Smith to the Bills, which will hurt. Grade: B-

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders took two big hits in losing corner Nnamdi Asomugha and tight end Zach Miller. They were integral parts of this team. They will be tough to replace. They only real action was re-signing their own players. They gave way too much money to outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. He's good, but that good? Bringing back Michael Huff for a decent price makes sense. All of their other signings were just for depth. They also lost Howard to the Bengals. Grade: D

Philadelphia Eagles: Do they print money at the Eagles' complex? They spent like they do. For a team that has long believed in developing its own, the Eagles went wild in free agency. Getting Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie will help the pass defense. They signed Jason Babin to liven up the pass rush. He had 12½ sacks for Tennessee last season, but he's one year removed from being a player the Eagles did not want. They added running back Ronnie Brown for depth and right tackle Ryan Harris to push for time as a starter. The rest of their moves were mostly for depth. But they picked up some nice pieces. Trading Kolb made sense, but it comes with some risk. Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers rarely lose guys they want to keep and they don't go out and sign other teams' free agents. The Steelers wanted to keep corner Ike Taylor and right tackle Willie Colon, which they did. They did let Max Starks go for cap reasons, so that will sting if he isn't brought back for less money. The Steelers do it the right way: develop your own. They didn't lose any key players either. That's the Steelers way. Grade: C

St. Louis Rams: The Rams didn't go on a wild spending spree, but they did address some needs. Their big-ticket item was safety Quintin Mikell. He reunites with coach Steve Spagnuolo, who had him in Philly. Guard Harvey Dahl will help improve an interior that had trouble moving people off the line last year. He is a mauler. I like the signings of receiver Mike Sims-Walker, defensive tackle Daniel Muir, linebacker Zac Diles and running backs Jerious Norwood and Cadillac Williams to small deals. Why not take a peak? Grade: C+

San Diego Chargers: They did a nice job keeping safety Eric Weddle, a big part of their pass defense. They overpaid some to keep him, but he's a good player. They also kept outside rusher Antwan Barnes. They added linebacker Takeo Spikes, who should be good for a few more years inside, and Travis LaBoy outside. They also kept tackle Jeromey Clary. They did lose Sproles to New Orleans and linebacker Antwan Applewhite to San Francisco. All in all, it was a nice, solid job by A.J. Smith. Nothing but keeping Weddle was big. Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers: Their big move was to bring back quarterback Alex Smith, who will be the starter again. Their other moves were almost tradeoffs. They let Nate Clements leave and replaced him with Carlos Rogers. They let Dashon Goldson leave and they will replace him with Madieu Williams. The loss of nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin would seem to be a hit, but they didn't do much to keep him. They did re-sign Ray McDonald, which was a sleeper move in free agency. San Francisco also signed Eagles kicker David Akers, who will help their special teams. But they paid him way too much for a kicker. Losing Baas to the Giants was offset by a nice move to sign Goodwin. Grade: C-

Seattle Seahawks: Do they really think Tarvaris Jackson is the long-term answer? Either that or they are playing the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Game. The Seahawks signed Jackson as a free agent and handed him the starting job. They didn't want Matt Hasselbeck back, but is Jackson better right now? He's younger. They didn't overpay for him, so the money wasn't bad. They did help him out by landing Rice, his former teammate, to play receiver as well as Zach Miller. But what does that say about tight end John Carlson, who is only in his third season? Guard Robert Gallery will be an immediate upgrade on the offensive line. They did lose center Chris Spencer, but they were ready for that. On defense, the key move was keeping tackle Brandon Mebane. They added a potential edger rusher in Jimmy Wilkerson and a big tackle in Alan Branch. Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: General manager Mark Dominik isn't a big believer in free agency. And it showed. The Bucs didn't spend on any big-ticket items that weren't their own. They re-signed guard Davin Joseph and linebacker Quincy Black, two good moves even if they overpaid for Joseph. They did overspend to get Koenen from the Falcons. This is another young team taking the draft-is-the-way approach. Grade: C+

Tennessee Titans: Their big move was getting quarterback Mart Hasselbeck. Oh, boy. He wasn't very good last season, and all they did was give him a deal for $7 million per season. That's way too much. I know they wanted a veteran, but him? They signed Barrett Ruud to play middle linebacker. He's a good run thumper, but struggles in coverage. They lost pass rusher Jason Babin, but with a change of scheme, how badly was he wanted back? They added veteran defensive linemen Shaun Smith and tight end Daniel Graham for depth. Grade: D

Washington Redskins: The talk before free agency was that they would be active and they were. They landed Cofield and Bowen to help their defensive front. Both will start and help the run defense in a big way. They also signed corner Josh Wilson (Ravens), an up-and-coming player. He takes over for Carlos Rogers. On offense, they re-signed receiver Santana Moss and added Jabar Gaffney in a trade. They also signed Donte Stallworth to help the passing game and traded to get running back Tim Hightower from the Cardinals. I like the signing of Chester. The biggest move was trading McNabb. Now that he's gone, the job will go to John Beck. That move will determine how the Redskins play this season as much as anything. Grade: B-

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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