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NFL free agency grades for all 32 teams: Patriots, Jets, Browns earn high marks

Tight end Hunter Henry was part of the Patriots' big free agency haul this year. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
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The 8 percent drop in the salary cap caused perhaps the most unusual free agency period in NFL history.

Fewer than 20 free agents received contracts worth $10 million or more per year. Players in their 30s had to take big discounts. The quarterback market dried up quickly.

But this was also one of the most active free agency periods. Nearly 130 players moved to different teams in the first week-plus. There were 14 trades. Re-signings are happening at a quick pace, often for low prices.

Here are free agency grades for all 32 teams.

Arizona Cardinals: B

General Manager Steve Keim has been aggressive in upgrading the roster around third-year quarterback Kyler Murray. He traded for center Rodney Hudson and signed defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver A.J. Green, kicker Matt Prater, guard Brian Winter and cornerback Malcolm Butler. The only concern is age. All of those players will be 30 or older when the season starts.

Atlanta Falcons: C

The Falcons took an economical approach to the marketplace, in part because they were way over the salary cap at the start of free agency. They haven’t gotten much better, adding linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Brandon Copeland, safety Erik Harris and running back Mike Davis. They also traded for tight end Lee Smith.

Baltimore Ravens: C-minus

Guard Kevin Zeitler was a good value signing, and he won’t count against the compensatory draft pick formula — something Baltimore emphasizes in its offseason decision-making — because the Giants released him before free agency started. But they let two good edge rushers leave in Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, and missed out on the top free agent wide receivers.

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Buffalo Bills: B-plus

This grade is more about whom they kept than whom they added. They re-signed linebacker Matt Milano and right tackle Daryl Williams along with extending the contracts of offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Mitch Morse. The one-year deal to bring in Mitchell Trubisky as the backup to quarterback Josh Allen was a bargain.

Carolina Panthers: B-plus

The Panthers first tried to shore up their offensive line, signing Cameron Erving and Pat Elflein. They improved the defense by adding linebackers Denzel Perryman and Haasan Riddick and cornerback Rashad Melvin. They also did it economically, not spending more than $5 million per year for any player.

Chicago Bears: D

Their biggest failure was not getting a high-level quarterback to replace Trubisky. They spent a lot of time talking to Seattle about Russell Wilson, but that was a trade that was never going to happen, because the Seahawks were not going to part with him. The Bears settled on Andy Dalton to compete against Nick Foles. They also suffered losses at other positions, including cornerbacks Buster Skrine and Kyle Fuller.

Cincinnati Bengals: D

They let cornerback William Jackson III leave and sign with Washington for $13 million per year and replaced him with Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie for a little more than $13 million per year combined. They also let defensive end Carl Lawson go to the New York Jets for $15 million per year and replaced him with Trey Hendrickson on a similar contract. When your old players are some of the best available in free agency, that’s usually a sign that it would have been better to keep them.

Cleveland Browns: A

The Browns did a great job on defense. The secondary is much improved after landing safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill from the Los Angeles Rams. Anthony Walker can help at linebacker. Defensive end Takk McKinley could add to the pass rush, and Malik Jackson will help at defensive tackle.

Dallas Cowboys: B

After giving Dak Prescott a contract worth $40 million per year, it was going to be tough for the Cowboys to do much in free agency. But they did some good things on defense at reasonable prices. The best move was adding safety Keanu Neal, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract and will move to weakside linebacker. They got more help at linebacker by signing Tarell Basham to a two-year, $6.5 million deal.

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Denver Broncos: A-minus

New general manager George Paton is giving Coach Vic Fangio every chance to succeed on defense. For $19.5 million per year combined, he added cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. He kept outside linebacker Von Miller despite his $18 million salary cap number. He re-signed safety Kareem Jackson on a one-year, $5 million deal after not picking up his option and signed safety Justin Simmons to a big extension.

Detroit Lions: C-minus

The Lions have been one of the most active teams, but they have not improved. They wiped out most of their free agent additions from last year. They cut cornerback Justin Coleman. They lost wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay. Their trade of quarterback Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff became official, and that doesn’t count as an upgrade.

Green Bay Packers: D

The salary cap prevented them from doing much. So far, all they have done is re-sign cornerback Kevin King after re-upping running back Aaron Jones before free agency began.

Houston Texans: C

They’ve added more than 20 players, but they are mostly backups or special teams players making less than $3 million. They signed Tyrod Taylor as insurance at quarterback until the Deshaun Watson situation is resolved.

Indianapolis Colts: C

I’m surprised the Colts haven’t been more active; they ranked among the league leaders in cap room before free agency. They made a nice trade in getting quarterback Carson Wentz from Philadelphia, but for the most part they have been quiet. They signed Sam Tevi on a one-year, $2.5 million contract as a temporary replacement for retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and they re-signed cornerback Xavier Rhodes, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Marlon Mack.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B-plus

The Jaguars had plenty of cap room, and they have been one of the most active teams. Wide receivers Marvin Jones and Jamal Agnew and running back Carlos Hyde will help the offense, but the best move was signing Shaquil Griffin, who was one of the two best cornerbacks available.

Kansas City Chiefs: B

Everyone was surprised when the Chiefs cut injured tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, but they patched up the offensive line by paying $16 million per year for Joe Thuney, pulling Kyle Long out of retirement to fortify the guard spots and re-signing right tackle Mike Remmers. They could look to the draft for a starting left tackle and another wide receiver.

Las Vegas Raiders: C-minus

The Raiders may have made the most puzzling free agency decisions by trading three starting offensive linemen — Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson — and then giving $5.5 million per year to Kenyan Drake even though they have one of the NFL’s best young running backs in Josh Jacobs. The pass rush got better with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, however.

Los Angeles Chargers: A-minus

The offensive line is so much better with the signings of center Corey Linsley and guard Matt Feiler. Jared Cook was a nice addition at tight end, replacing Hunter Henry for a fraction of the cost.

Los Angeles Rams: C-minus

The Stafford trade was a good move, but it came with a price. With $42.2 million tied up in Stafford’s salary and dead money for Goff, the Rams had to let eight free agents go, along with trading defensive end Michael Brockers. Sure, they were able to keep outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, but the defense is less talented without Brockers, linebacker Sam Ebukam, cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson. The offense is thinner after losing tight end Gerald Everett and wide receiver Josh Reynolds.

Miami Dolphins: B

Will Fuller V, whom they signed to a one-year deal, will help at wide receiver. They were able to get a good slot cornerback, Justin Coleman, at a great price ($2.75 million on a one-year deal). Jacoby Brissett is a nice replacement for Ryan Fitzpatrick as Tua Tagovailoa’s backup. What wasn’t great, though, was the release of linebacker Kyle Van Noy and the trade of Shaq Lawson, two of their top acquisitions last year.

Minnesota Vikings: A

The Vikings’ defense got two steals. They get a quality defensive tackle (Dalvin Tomlinson) for $11 million per year and a good cornerback in Patrick Peterson for $8 million per year.

New England Patriots: A-plus

Bill Belichick spent big money to improve an offense he has neglected for two years. He gave deals worth $12.5 million per year to tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne upgrade the receiving corps. On defense, edge rusher Matthew Judon is one of several signings who should help. Still, it’s amazing to see Belichick spending big in free agency; there is always risk in handing out that many large contracts.

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New Orleans Saints: D

The Saints had to clear more than $100 million off the books to get under the cap and as a result had to cut, trade or let several players go. After Drew Brees retired, they did well to retain Jameis Winston on a reasonable deal to compete with Taysom Hill for the starting quarterback job.

New York Giants: B-plus

The Giants did well in getting the best available wide receiver in Golladay, who got $18 million per year. But their most questionable signing was cornerback Adoree Jackson on a three-year, $39 million contract, which might have been an overpay.

New York Jets: A

General Manager Joe Douglas took a cautious approach in free agency last year, but he got more aggressive this time around. He spent $15 million per year for defensive end Carl Lawson and $13.5 million per for wide receiver Corey Davis. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and safety LaMarcus Joyner were good value signings.

Philadelphia Eagles: C-plus

The Eagles made the best of a tight cap situation, getting safety Anthony Harris on a one-year, $5 million contract and adding Joe Flacco as their backup quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers: C-plus

The Steelers got lucky. The receiver market was slow to develop, so they were able to re-sign JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year deal worth $8 million. Their grade would jump to a B if left tackle Alejandro Villanueva returns. So far he remains a free agent. They did lose cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, who was cut. Losing guard Matt Fieler also hurt.

San Francisco 49ers: B-plus

The 49ers did a great job of keeping their own. Their mission was to keep their top four priorities — offensive tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Jusczcyk and cornerbacks Jason Verrett and J’Waun Williams. They were even able to squeeze in center Alex Mack as a free agent addition.

Seattle Seahawks: B-plus

Sure, they lost a No. 1 cornerback with Griffin’s departure to Jacksonville, but they helped fix the offensive line by re-signing center Ethan Pocic and trading for guard Gabe Jackson. They further bolstered Wilson’s supporting cast by signing the third-best tight end in free agency (Everett) and bringing back running back Chris Carson for $5.2 million per year. They did well at defensive end by signing Kerry Hyder and re-signing Benson Mayowa.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B

The Super Bowl champs’ plan was to keep, not add, and it worked: They used the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin and re-signed edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and running back Leonard Fournette.

Tennessee Titans: B-minus

They did well to get edge rusher Bud Dupree, cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson and wide receiver Josh Reynolds. But those additions might not make up for their losses, including receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson, Desmond King and Malcolm Butler, safety Kenny Vaccaro and right tackle Dennis Kelly.

Washington Football Team: B-plus

Washington was sneaky good in free agency, landing one of the top two cornerbacks in William Jackson III and one of the top three wide receivers in Curtis Samuel. Ryan Fitzpatrick can be the team’s starting quarterback this season while it pursues a long-term option.

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