NFL

Ranking all 32 NFL teams based on their free agency moves, plus top five bargain signings so far

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USATSI

Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

If you’re like me and you’ve been scoring at home, then you know that we are now in Day 117 of the Aaron Rodgers trade watch. 

At some point, the Jets are likely going to trade for Rodgers, but until then, it seems they’re keeping themselves busy by pulling off other trades.That’s right, the Jets pulled off a trade on Wednesday and we’ll be covering all the details in today’s newsletter. We’ll also be ranking the teams that have done the best in free agency so far. 

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. All right, let’s get to the rundown. 

1. Today’s show: Breaking down C.J. Stroud’s Ohio State Pro Day

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With NFL Draft season now in full swing, you’ll be hearing a lot about our “With the First Pick” podcast over the next month. That’s our draft podcast that’s hosted by Ryan Wilson and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.

For today’s episode the two recorded the show from Columbus, Ohio. They don’t usually record from Columbus, but they were there on Wednesday to watch C.J. Stroud at Ohio State’s Pro Day. 

Wilson came away impressed with Stroud’s performance, “I thought he had a really good day, I thought he made a lot of great throws.”

As for Spielman, he was watching with the eye of a former GM and he offered plenty of insight. 

  • Stroud did a little bit of everything. “I think what he did at the combine — and what I thought was one of the best quarterback workouts I’ve ever seen at the combine — I thought that just carried over into today’s pro day,” Spielman said. “You saw him throw short, intermediate and the deep ball. He moved around in the pocket. He got an opportunity to throw to his receivers today on his own home turf and he took advantage of that opportunity. 
  • What Spielman was looking for. “The one thing I wanted to see was his feet and how coordinated he is when he’s setting up in the pocket, how the ball’s coming off his hand,” Spielman said. “I mean it’s ridiculous how smooth and easy that throwing motion is, and the velocity he’s putting on the ball, you’re seeing balls that are thrown 60 to 70 yards down the field when he’s moving around in the pocket. There’s no question about his arm talent.”

After watching Stroud’s workout, Spielman thinks Stroud might have taken a small step closer to being the No. 1 overall pick. 

“I think he keeps getting closer and closer to being that QB1 for Carolina,” Spielman said. 

Speaking of Carolina, the Panthers were WELL-REPRESENTED at the pro day with nearly a dozen people from the organization in attendance, including: Owners David and Nicole Tepper, general manager Scott Fitterer, head coach Frank Reich, assistant general manager Dan Morgan, VP Samir Suleiman, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, senior assistant Jim Caldwell, scouting director Cole Spencer and scout Joel Patten. 

That contingent, along with Spielman and Wilson, will all be making their way down to Tuscaloosa today so they can watch Bryce Young at Alabama’s Pro Day. 

If you want to hear Wilson and Spielman break down Stroud’s pro day, you can do that by clicking here. You can also watch today’s show on YouTube by clicking here

Stroud wasn’t the only player at Ohio State’s Pro Day and if you want to know how everyone else did, then you’ll want to check out our full breakdown of the event by clicking here.

2. Jets have a busy day: New York signs Mecole Hardman after trading away Elijah Moore

The Jets pulled off a trade on Wednesday, but it didn’t involve Aaron Rodgers, and at this point, I’m pretty sure they’re just messing with everyone. 

In yesterday’s trade, the Jets shipped Elijah Moore off to Cleveland in exchange for a draft pick. 

Here’s a look at the trade details

  • Browns receive: Elijah Moore and 2023 third-round pick (74th overall)
  • Jets receive: 2023 second-round pick (42nd overall)

Thanks to the trade, the Jets now have two consecutive picks in the second round (42 and 43), and because of that, it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see at least one of those two picks included in a package for Rodgers. 

As everyone knows, if there’s a trade in the NFL, we almost always hand out grades, so obviously we had to do that for this deal. 

The man in charge of handing grades today was Tyler Sullivan and here’s what he came up with: 

  • Browns grade: A-. “This was a savvy move for a Browns team that needed a secondary receiver opposite of Amari Cooper. Instead of shipping away a first-round pick to acquire Denver’s Jerry Jeudy (a player Cleveland had reportedly been linked to), they buy low on a former second-round pick in Moore, who has shown flashes in his career.”
  • Jets grade: B+. “The Jets’ wide receiver room was getting way too crowded and Moore was clearly the odd man out. So, New York ended up moving up a round in the draft by attaching a third-round pick to a player who likely wasn’t in its plans to begin with, which is not too shabby.” 

You can check out Tyler’s full explanation for each grade by clicking here

Although the Jets traded away a receiver, they also added one in the form of Mecole Hardman. The former Chiefs receiver agreed to terms on a one-year deal that’s worth up to $6.5 million. With Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard and Hardman, the Jets have a pretty solid receiving group, they now just need someone who can throw them the ball. 

In other Jets news, the team is believed to be interested in adding Odell Beckham Jr. and you can check out all the details on that story by clicking here

3. Ranking all 32 teams based on the moves they’ve made so far

With most of the biggest names on the free agent market now signed, we thought that now would be a good time to go through and rank how EVERY single team did during free agency this year. Since Cody Benjamin is the most trustworthy person I know, we decided to let him handle the rankings. 

Cody looked at every move that’s been made this offseason, including trades, and ranked each team based on how they did. With that in mind, let’s check out his top five and bottom five. 

1. Lions. “They addressed glaring secondary holes both aggressively and frugally, adding a trio of physical starters in CB Cameron Sutton, CB Emmanuel Moseley and S C.J. Gardner-Johnson for less than $50M combined.”
2. Jets. “In a league full of teams starving for difference-making QBs, they’re primed to get a near-Tom Brady-level rental in Aaron Rodgers. Unless the eventual price tag is inexplicably massive, it’s a big win for a playoff-caliber roster.”
3. Bears. “QB Justin Fields finally has a legit No. 1 WR in D.J. Moore thanks to their trade down from the No. 1 pick. OG Nate Davis should help up front. And both RB D’Onta Foreman and TE Robert Tonyan should be rugged red-zone options.”
4. Broncos. “Did they outbid themselves for OT Mike McGlinchey and OG Ben Powers? Perhaps. But Sean Payton is right to reinvest in the trenches, seemingly shifting the offensive approach around the ground game that helped QB Russell Wilson stay comfortable for so long in Seattle.”
5. Giants. “Your view of Big Blue’s offseason depends almost entirely on what you make of QB Daniel Jones. He may not yet be a sure thing as a downfield passer, but New York isn’t ridiculously overpaying for an efficient, athletic, 25-year-old playoff winner under center…His new weapons, TE Darren Waller and WR Parris Campbell, are big injury risks but clear upgrades. And LB Bobby Okereke should help the middle of the defense.”

28. Packers. “Green Bay’s done very little to upgrade Joradn Love’s supporting cast, retaining only special teams standouts Keisean Nixon and Rudy Ford while holes at WR, TE and DL remain.”
29. Chargers. “A mega extension for QB Justin Herbert might salvage an otherwise ho-hum offseason, which was destined following their spending spree in 2022.”
30. Cardinals. “They must be saving their money for something. It’s understandable they didn’t wanna pay massive bucks to keep DL Zach Allen, or bid for CB Byron Murphy coming off injury, but that means Jonathan Gannon’s inherited defense is still devoid of many building blocks.”
31. Rams. “Their biggest additions are merely offensive starters coming back from injury: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, etc. Otherwise they’ve been content to sell, parting ways with Pro Bowl-caliber starters like CB Jalen Ramsey, OLB Leonard Floyd and LB Bobby Wagner.”
32. Ravens. “There’s really no other place to put the Ravens until they resolve their QB situation.”

If you want to check out Cody’s full list, and trust me, you do, then you’re going to want to be sure to click here

4. Power ranking the NFC teams after nearly two weeks of free agency

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Now that we just got done ranking each team by how well they did in free agency, we’re going to rank each team by how good they actually are. On Tuesday, we unveiled our AFC Power Rankings, and today, we’ve got our NFC Power Rankings. 

This ranking is basically taking a look at who we think the best teams in the NFC are now that free agency is mostly done. With that mind, here’s our post-free agency rankings of each NFC team, courtesy of Jeff Kerr. 

1. Eagles
2. Cowboys
3. 49ers
4. Lions
5. Giants
6. Saints
7. Vikings
8. Seahawks
9. Commanders
10. Buccaneers

One thing that stands out to me here is that the LIONS are ranked fourth overall and the ranking actually makes some sense. Also, you’ll notice that the Packers are nowhere to be found in Kerr’s top 10. 

We only listed the top 10 NFC teams here, but if you want to know where the Packers and the five other NFC teams ended up, you’ll have to click here to see Kerr’s full ranking

5. Top five bargain signings in free agency

The teams that tend to do the best in free agency are the ones that get the biggest bang for their buck and no one understands that more than CBSSports.com’s Jared Dubin, who loves a good bargain more than anyone, which is why he only shops at the Dollar Store. Because of that, we had Dubin come up with a list of the best bargains in free agency so far. 

Here are his top five bargains: 

  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson signs with Lions (1 year, $8 million). “Last season’s Lions secondary left a lot to be desired. Detroit finished the year ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. The Lions went out and got three new starters for the defensive backfield, each of whom has the versatility to play multiple spots. And they did it at a fairly low cost. Cameron Sutton’s contract pays him a max of around $11 million per year (and his 2023 cap number is just north of $3 million); Emmanuel Moseley got just $6 million in total; and Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year, $8 million pact.”
  • Rashaad Penny signs with Eagles (1 year, $1.35 million). “Penny has averaged north of 6 yards per carry twice in four years, and he’ll be playing behind the NFL’s best offensive line and alongside a quarterback whose skill set should help make him an even more efficient ball-carrier. This is a low-risk, very-high-upside move, even when you factor in his injury history.”
  • Vonn Bell signs with Panthers (3 years, $22.5 million). “Bell is a perfect fit for new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero’s defense… A versatile player who can fill almost any role you ask a safety to play and who has experience working in a variety of coverage schemes, Bell should help the Panthers leverage the narrower skill sets of Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods, because he can work alongside either or both of them at the same time.”
  • D’Onta Foreman signs with Bears (1 year, $2 million). “Now six years removed from the torn Achilles that threatened to ruin his career, Foreman carries 203 times for 914 yards and five scores last season, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards after contact per rush and averaging 5.0 yards per carry on shotgun runs, which is key on a team featuring Justin Fields.”
  • Charles Omenihu signs with Chiefs (2 years, $16 million). “Among the 214 defensive linemen who rushed the passer at least 100 times last season, according to TruMedia, Omenihu generated pressure (a sack, hit, or hurry) on the 15th-largest share of those pass-rush snaps, with his 13.7% rate ranking on par with players like Demarcus Lawrence and Brian Burns.”

Dubin actually listed a total of 10 bargain players and you can see his full list by clicking here

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Raiders tight end diagnosed with cancer

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It’s been a busy 24 hours in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.

  • Foster Moreau diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. The former Raiders tight end, who became a free agent last week, announced on Twitter yesterday that he’ll be taking some time away from football after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. The cancer was discovered while he was going through a physical with the Saints’ medical staff. For more details on Moreau’s diagnosis, be sure to go here
  • Russell Wilson underwent knee surgery. Earlier this offseason, the Broncos quarterback had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The good news for Denver is that not only is Wilson expected to be fully healthy for the 2023 season, but the team thinks he’ll be ready to roll when OTAs kick off next month. 
  • Mystery bidder emerges for Commanders. The bidding process for the Commanders has been pretty secretive, but it seems that the identity of another bidder has emerged. According to ESPN.com, Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos is one of three known bidders looking to buy the team. To check out a full list of bidders, be sure to go here
  • Raiders sign Austin Hooper. With Darren Waller and Moreau both not returning to Las Vegas this year, the Raiders were in serious need of some tight end depth and they added some on Wednesday by signing Hooper. The 28-year-old caught 41 passes for 444 yards and two touchdowns last season for Tennessee. In his seven-year career, Hooper has two different seasons where he caught at least 70 passes, so don’t be surprised if he easily tops last year’s numbers while playing for the Raiders in 2023. 
  • Tony Pollard signs his franchise tag. The Cowboys running back is now officially under contract after signing his tag on Thursday, according to ESPN.com. The two sides now have until July 17 to work out a long-term deal. If that doesn’t happen, then Pollard will play the 2023 season on a one-year deal worth $10.09 million. 

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