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NFL Offseason Winners and Losers
by Brett Berliner (NFL)
Posted on April 10, 2006, 3:44 PM

The NFL offseason is something that, as a Browns fan, I need to deal with and learn to love, because it's always about 'next year'. With this year being one of the biggest free agent bonanzas in recent years, due to the extra money given to every team, I figure it's as good a time as any to examine who helped themselves the most, and who dug themselves the biggest holes in free agency.

Biggest Winners:

Carolina Panthers: Major Additions: C Justin Hartwig, WR Keyshawn Johnson, DT Maake Kemoeatu, P Micah Knorr, DT Damione Lewis, S Shaun Williams

Major Losses: DT Brentson Buckner, RB Stephen Davis, S Marlon McCree, LB Brandon Short, LB Will Withershpoon

Overall: The Panthers lost quite a few 'name' players, but beyond Will Witherspoon, they didn't lose much. Brentson Buckner and Stephen Davis are nearly done, and Marlon McCree and Brandon Short are solid, but unspectacular players. Their additions are all nice fits, too. Justin Hartwig is a fine center, and Keyshawn Johnson will work excellently across from Steve Smith. His blocking ability will give Smith more room to operate with the ball, and his red zone prowess will help greatly. With the addition of a good receiving tight end in the draft, the Panthers O could be lethal. Although I'm not a huge fan of Damione Lewis, he's only expected to provide depth behind the best tackle tandem in the league, Maake Kemoeatu and Kris Jenkins. The team did a nice job upgrading their overall talent level.

Cleveland Browns: Major Additions: C LeCharles Bentley, TE Darnell Dinkins, C/G Bob Hallen, WR Joe Jurevicius, LB Willie McGinest, LT Kevin Shaffer, NT Ted Washington, P Dave Zastudil

Major Losses: WR Antonio Bryant, LT L.J. Shelton, S Chris Crocker

Overall: The Browns had a very nice offseason, as a team with 26 million in cap room should. They resigned their best free agents to be early in Orpheus Roye and Leigh Bodden, and set out upgrading the lines for the team. L.J. Shelton did not excel last season in Cleveland, and will be replaced fine by Kevin Shaffer, while the interior of the OL was settled by signing the best C in the league, LeCharles Bentley, and a solid interior backup in Bob Hallen. Joe Jurevicius fits the method of these Browns more than Antonio Bryant as well - Bryant was more explosive, but Jurevicius is steady and presents matchup problems in the red zone, where the Browns had major trouble last year. Dave Zastudil will immediately fix a two year problem the Browns have had at punter, saving them from the 7 yard punts of Derrick Frost and Kyle 'Shank' Richardson. I expect the Browns to further address the defense in the draft, but by adding Ted Washington to solidify the middle of the DL and teach whatever young NT they bring in, and Willie McGinest to tutor the hybrid LB/DE players they will likely bring in from the draft, they've added a lot of heart to a defense that lacked some. I'm not sure the Browns helped themselves the absolute most in the offseason, but they're up there.

Minnesota Vikings Major Additions: G Steve Hutchinson, LB Ben Leber, K Ryan Longwell, DE DeQuincy Scott, RB Chester Taylor, S Tank Williams

Major Losses: RB Michael Bennett, S Corey Chavous, LB Sam Cowart, QB Daunte Culpepper, CB Brian Williams, WR Nate Burleson

Overall: It sure looks like the Vikings lost a lot to be considered a 'winner', but I like where they're going. It's easy to examine their losses and think the overall talent level of the team has dropped, but they're starting over. Culpepper was a big question mark and a drain on the salary cap - I like the guy, but he isn't a great fit in Brad Childress' offense, which doesn't rely too majorly on the vertical game. Cowart has lost about ten steps, Brian Williams and Corey Chavous were part of a very disappointing defensive backfield, Michael Bennett and Nate Burelson are not as talented as their names imply. Their additions were looking majorly towards the future. Hutch should anchor their lines for year, and they added some young, but cheap talent to their defense in Ben Leber, DeQuincy Scott and Tank Williams. Chester Taylor got too much money, but he'll be a great starting RB in Childress' offense, and finally, Ryan Longwell will solve the Vikings' problem at kicker. Very, very nice.

New York Giants: Major Additions: CB Sam Madison, CB R.W. McQuarters, CB Brandon Williams, S Will Demps

Major Losses: S Brent Alexander, S Shaun Williams, LB Barrett Green, DT Kendrick Clancy, CB Will Allen

Overall: The Giants basically cleaned up, relative to the amount of cap space they had. They need help at LB and at DT still, but they upgraded majorly in the secondary and the steady nature of veterans like Madison and McQuarters will help a young and emerging defense. They basically finally addressed what's been a sore spot on the team as long as I can remember, so for that, I give them props. I'd advise them NOT to bring in Lavar Arrington, though. He's a headache and isn't worth what they'll be paying him.

Philadelphia Eagles: Major Additions: LB Shawn Barber, WR Jabar Gaffney, QB Jeff Garcia, DE Darren Howard, TE Matt Schobel

Major Losses: QB Mike McMahon, WR Terrell Owens

Overall: T.O., at this point, is addition by subtraction. I could write a whole column about how he'll help, just by being gone. Their additions, as always, are solid, too - Shawn Barber is another LB returning to where he was used best, Gaffney can help at WR (although he's not a #1 by any means), and Darren Howard across from Jevon Kearse? Yikes. Schobel and Garcia will help improve depth. Not a knockout offseason, but it should help them get back to the top quickly.

St. Louis Rams: Major Additions: S Corey Chavous, CB Fakhir Brown, RB Tony Fisher, QB Gus Frerotte, DT La'Roi Glover, LB Will Witherspoon

Major Losses: S Adam Archuleta, LB Chris Claiborne, DT Damione Lewis, DT Ryan Pickett

Overall: The Rams had a really nice underrated offseason. It all starts up top with the hiring of head coach Scott Linehan, but they did a nice job of addressing their defense. Chris Claiborne was more than a step slow as of late, and Will Witherspoon will replace him and provide an upgrade. Although La'Roi Glover is getting up there in age, he is a still a solid player who, on heart alone, will provide an upgrade over departed underachievers Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis. Finally, I've never been a big Adam Archuleta fan and I think Corey Chavous is a better all around football player. He doesn't make the big hit like Archuleta does, but he's a solid tackler and worlds better in coverage. The other additions were mainly for depth, but improve the overall talent level of the Rams, who should be ready for a nice playoff run real soon.

Tennessee Titans Major Additions: WR David Givens, S Chris Hope, C Kevin Mawae, LB David Thornton

Major Losses: C Justin Hartwig, LT Brad Hopkins, S Tank Williams

Overall: The Titans, who reportedly had cap trouble, did a nice job of getting out without too much damage. Hartwig for Mawae is a fair swap (Mawae is WAY better, but also getting up in the years), Hopkins was going to lose his job to Michael Roos anyway, and only Tank Williams is a loss of any significance. Meanwhile, David Givens should fit in greatly across from Drew Bennett, giving McNair (and Matt Leinart, oh my) some nice young weapons. Chris Hope is a downgrade at safety from Tank, but he's still talented, and David Thornton is a really nice fit. The Titans have a great pair of OLBs in Thornton and Keith Bulluck now.

Treading the most water:

New Orleans Saints: Major Additions: RB Michael Bennett, QB Drew Brees, LB Scott Fujita, LB Anthony Simmons, S Omar Stoutmire

Major Losses: C LeCharles Bentley, QB Aaron Brooks, CB Fakhir Brown, DE Darren Howard, G Kendyl Jacox, TE Boo Williams

Overall: When I started writing this column, I originally had the Saints in the losers section. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to put them in the winners, and really, when it came down to it, I had to create a new category for them. They did some things I really liked - finally bringing in a good backup for Deuce McAlister in Michael Bennett, finally getting rid of Aaron Brooks and replacing him with a QB I love in Drew Brees.. those were great moves. Then, they did a lot of things I really hate - letting the game's best center, LeCharles Bentley walk. Letting one of the best DEs, Darren Howard, walk. I realize Will Smith and Charles Grant are still very, very good, but just letting Howard walk is tough for me to swallow. Hurting the team's red zone ability with the loss of Boo Williams. Adding some decent linebackers but not really addressing the major weak spot in the team correctly. I dunno. They did some fine things and should be better next year, but this offseason was a major wash.

Biggest Losers:

Baltimore Ravens: Major Additions: RB Mike Anderson, DT Trevor Pryce

Major Losses: LB Peter Boulware, OT Orlando Brown, S Will Demps, TE Darnell Dinkins, DT Maake Kemoeatu, RB Chester Taylor, DE Tony Weaver, P Dave Zastudil

Overall: While the Rats - I mean, Ravens - did bring in two potential impact players in Mike Anderson and Trevor Pryce, both of the players are nearing the twilight of their careers. Anderson, in particular, is a strange addition in that he seems to be more a similar back to Jamal Lewis, but he may just be insurance to ol' 8-Ball, who is a bit injury prone and may have worn down quite a bit.

The losses are really where the Ravens begin to hurt. For one, they really downgraded at RB with the loss of Chester Taylor, who looks as if he's about to have a big time breakout year. This situation really reminds me of when the Ravens let 1000 yard rusher Priest Holmes walk, who exploded in KC. Admittedly, Orlando Brown and Peter Boulware don't have a ton left, so losing them won't hurt too bad, but Tony Weaver, Will Demps, Darnell Dinkins and Maake Kemoeatu are all young players in various stages of breakout. In fact, Kemoeatu signed a deal comparable to Trevor Pryce's, which baffles me - why let the young stud walk? Dave Zastudil will hurt, unless replaced by a comparable punter. What an underrated position.

Houston Texans: Major Additions: FB Jameel Cook, C Mike Flanagan, LB Sam Cowart, TE Jeb Putzier, DE Tony Weaver, WR Eric Moulds

Major Losses: QB Tony Banks, WR Corey Bardford, S Marcus Coleman, WR Jabar Gaffney, RB Tony Hollings, DE Gary Walker

Overall: Okay, the Texans didn't have what I'd consider a terrible offseason - they got rid of some underachievers and brought in some guys to help play roles and plug holes. In that, they had what I might consider a successful run. I especially like the additions of Mike Flanagan, Tony Weaver and Eric Moulds. But consider this - the Texans were talent DEVOID last year. They had a mediocre defense who would have been better had they not spent most of the game on the field, and one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Sure, there's the draft, but they could have added some proven NFL players with all the money they had to spend, and they didn't do that much.

Maybe guys who fit the Kubiak model weren't out there, or maybe guys weren't willing to listen to the Texans, except for exorbitant money. I don't know. Kubiak was a great hire, but they've got to start upgrading their general talent level if they want to be competitive. Reggie Bush will help, but he can't do it on his own.

Indianapolis Colts: Major Addition: K Adam Vinatieri

Major Losses: RB Edgerrin James, LB David Thornton, DT Larry Tripplet, DT Josh Williams, K Mike Vanderjagt

Overall: I'll give the Colts some credit in that they upgraded at kicker, which is a kind of important position. With Vinatieri, they probably make the kick against the Steelers, and then who knows. And I also know they were put in a tough situation with having a lot of key free agents in one year, and a lot of their salary cap given to Peyton, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. I personally would have tried to resign James over Wayne, but I understand that move - I just don't like the fact that their defense was decimated. They possibly stand to lose Cato June and Robert Mathis in addition to the guys who already took off. I think the Colts will still have a good offense, and a solid defense, but I don't see them as being as good as they were last season. Stranger things have happened, but they are definitely weaker, at least talent-wise, this year.

New England Patriots: Major Addition: (ha) WR Reche Caldwell

Major Losses: T Tom Ashworth, WR Tim Dwight, TE Christian Fauria, WR David Givens, LB Willie McGinest, CB Tyrone Poole, CB Duane Starks, K Adam Vinatieri

Overall: The Pats didn't really lose anyone irreplaceable. David Givens hurts, though, as now there's basically nothing except Deion Branch at WR, but none of these guys, at least from a talent standpoint, can't be replaced. From a heart standpoint, though, the losses of Ashworth, a leader in the trenches by example, as well as McGinest, a vocal and talented leader, and the best clutch kicker in NFL history in Vinatieri.. those hurt. From all accounts, the Pats had plenty of cap room, so what are they doing with it? If they don't at least resign some of their talent to extensions, it's wasted room, and I don't ever see the point in wasting cap space. Just me.

Washington Redskins: Major Additions: S Adam Archuleta, LB/DE Andre Carter, TE Christian Fauria, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Antwaan Randle El

Major Losses: LB Lavar Arrington, S Matt Bowen, CB Walt Harris, DT Brandon Noble, QB Patrick Ramsey, S Omar Stoutmire

Overall: The Redskins are on this list for their additions, as they didn't lose a ton (besides a still talented Patrick Ramsey, and a big question mark in Lavar Arrington). However, the guys they brought in, they spent way too much money on - but most of them are discussed individually below, to be fair. Andre Carter was given $30 million to improve the pass rush, but he hasn't proved yet he's even worth half of that. The WRs brought in are maddeningly inconsistent, and Archuleta is horrendously overrated. They'll still have a good season, but those predicting them for a Super Bowl are a bit premature..

Quick Hits:

5 Best Moves:

5. Maake Kemoeatu to the Panthers Kemo, as he's known to fans, is a huge presence in the middle who plays with passion and strength. He'll fit nicely next to Kris Jenkins and upgrade the center of the Panthers line.

4. Drew Brees to the Saints Brees is a great young QB. His shoulder is a concern, but if he's healthy, he'll instantly provide stability to a team really needing it at the helm.

3. Akin Ayodele to the Cowboys Ayodele was the most underrated player in this year's free agency crop. I'm a bit worried about him moving to ILB with Dallas, but he's got speed, heart and intelligence. He was a much bigger part of the Jags defense last year than anyone could tell, at least until this year.

2. Lecharles Bentley to the Browns Bentley immediately establishes the center of the Browns line, regardless of if he plays at center or guard. The Browns have gone a long way to bringing smashmouth football back to Cleveland with the addition of Bentley and Kevin Shaffer.

1. Edgerrin James to the Cardinals James instantly provides a punch to an offense who couldn't run the ball, period. If they spend an early pick on a lineman, and draft their quarterback of the future, Arizona could be a fun team to watch very soon.

5 Worst Moves:

5. Antonio Bryant to the 49ers Bryant is a talent that'll never live up to his potential. He is crazy inconsistent, and can't keep his head into the game. San Francisco is expecting him to be their #1? Bad move.

4. Terrell Owens to the Cowboys He's here until he gives me a reason to believe he shouldn't be. If he's not causing problems, he'll lead the Cowboys to the playoffs. But he'll cause problems.

3. Antwaan Randle El to the Redskins He's a good punt returner and a fine third receiver, but $10 million in guaranteed money should bring more than 35 catches, under 600 yards, and one receiving TD. He's got more career fumbles than TDs.. bad news for his new team.

2. Adam Archuleta to the Redskins Obviously, it's not fair to say that just because Archuleta is one of the highest paid safeties of all time, he should be one of the best. But let's be honest - he should certainly be one of the best in the NFL for what he's paid, and he isn't. He might be the best at delivering the big hit, but his pass coverage isn't that great, and he misses too many tackles trying to kill the ball carrier. He's not a bad player, but he's overrated, and the 'Skins paid way too much to him, which isn't a shock.

1. Julian Peterson to the Seahawks Whoa, talk about overpaying. Peterson is a good player, when healthy, but his achilles tendon injury is one that may never heal completely. He has never been an explosive pass rusher, which is something the Seahawks really need, and he's just a solid, but overrated player. He can do some things really nicely, but I'm not convinced he's 100% or that he ever will be again. I like the signing, as Peterson really helps the linebacking corps, but they gave him almost $20 million in guaranteed money. Just overpayed for a question mark - he should have had his market price lowered due to his injury, but instead he got more than what he really deserved with the questions. Moreover, Peterson was only in negotiations with Cleveland and Detroit, who both offered him deals around 6 years, 30 mill. So why did the Seahawks tack so much more on it? He may prove to be worth it, but it's scary. Committing that much money to him and Nate Burleson? We'll see, I guess.

Next: We look forward to the draft with another mock. Things are a-changing!



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